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Raab calls for restraint as Hong Kong protests again turn violent

The Foreign Secretary says the use of live ammunition by the Hong Kong police is ‘disproportionate’.

Police fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in Hong Kong (Vincent Thian/AP/PA)
Police fire tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters in Hong Kong (Vincent Thian/AP/PA)

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

Britain has condemned the “disproportionate” use of live ammunition by the Hong Kong police as the latest anti-government protests in the territory saw a dramatic escalation in violence.

A teenage demonstrator was reported to have been shot in the chest as tens of thousands again took to the streets, even as the ruling Communist Party in Beijing was celebrating 70 years in power.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appealed for “restraint” on all sides while calling for dialogue to address the “legitimate concerns” of the Hong Kong people.

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Anti-government protesters set fire to block traffic in Hong Kong (Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP/PA )

“Whilst there is no excuse for violence, the use of live ammunition is disproportionate, and only risks inflaming the situation,” he said.

“This incident underlines the need for a constructive dialogue to address the legitimate concerns of the people of Hong Kong. We need to see restraint and a de-escalation from both protesters and the Hong Kong authorities.”

Mr Raab’s intervention is likely to infuriate the Chinese government which was determined to prevent the demonstrations upstaging its anniversary celebrations.

Beijing is acutely sensitive to any criticism by foreign powers – particularly the UK.

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Dominic Raab has called for dialogue to address the ‘legitimate concerns’ of the Hong Kong people (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 150 years until it was returned to China in 1997.

Under the terms of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the territory is supposed to enjoy a “high degree of autonomy”, with its social and economic systems remaining unchanged for 50 years.

However, the Chinese government has strongly rejected the idea that this gives the UK any continuing role in Hong Kong.

Following earlier criticism of the authorities’ handling of the demonstrations over the summer, the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming warned Britain not to interfere, accusing some politicians of acting as if it was still “part of the British empire”.

PA

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