Protesters, lawmakers slam remarks by Beijing's HK office

Mr Jimmy Sham (centre), convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind recent protests, called on China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to "get its facts right" before commenting on Hong Kong. PHOTO: ST FILE

Protest organisers yesterday rejected remarks by China's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), which held its first media briefing on the city since it was established in 1997, calling the conference a "waste of time".

Instead, the organisers repeated calls for Chief Executive Carrie Lam to set up an independent commission to look into allegations of police brutality that has seen protests escalate into violent clashes.

The city has for weeks been gripped in a political crisis, with millions having taken to the streets to protest against a now-suspended Bill that proposed allowing fugitives to be extradited to jurisdictions including mainland China.

The protests have since evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms.

"In the short term, we need to have an independent commission for Hong Kong to recover from the recent incidents, and for the city to return to normalcy. In the longer term, there needs to be political reforms," said Mr Jimmy Sham, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group behind recent protests.

He called on the HKMAO, which had described the protests as "evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements" in Hong Kong, to "get its facts right" before commenting on the city.

"What we are seeing is the police using violence to clamp down on peaceful protesters. Violence breeds violence, and because the police started using it first, protesters have had no choice but to retaliate," he told journalists outside the Legislative Council building. "Look at the protest at the airport last Friday. There was no police presence; look how peaceful it was," he said.

In a separate news conference, pro-democratic lawmakers said Beijing's "condescending" comments were a "worrying development".

"(The HKMAO) said they resolutely support Carrie Lam and the police; they are trying to split Hong Kong into two... and that is absolutely worrying," said lawmaker Claudia Mo. "They made a feeble attempt to right what they think is a security problem in Hong Kong, but that won't help the political crisis," she added, calling for Beijing to honour universal suffrage, which had been promised by 2017.

Civil servants are planning a rally on Friday to protest against the administration's response to the crisis, an indication of growing discontent even within the government's own ranks.

The Hong Kong Journalists Association yesterday also called on the government and police to take seriously accusations of police brutality, saying that journalists and photographers had been repeatedly harassed, injured and blocked from doing their jobs by officers at protest sites.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2019, with the headline Protesters, lawmakers slam remarks by Beijing's HK office. Subscribe