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Hong Kong leader pledges stiffer measures after violent day

The protests began over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy and police accountability.

Riot police fire tear gas in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)
Riot police fire tear gas in Hong Kong (Kin Cheung/AP)

By Alice Fung, Associated Press Reporter

Hong Kong’s leader has pledged to “spare no effort” in bringing an end to anti-government protests that have hit the city for more than five months, following a day of violence in which one person was shot and another set on fire.

Carrie Lam’s comments are likely to fuel speculation that harsher legal and police measures may be in the works to curb the protests.

“I do not want to go into details, but I just want to make it very clear that we will spare no effort in finding ways and means that could end the violence in Hong Kong as soon as possible,” Ms Lam said.

She also refused to accept the protesters’ demands for political concessions.

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Carrie Lam refused to accept the protesters’ demands for political concessions (Dita Alangkara/AP)

“If there is still any wishful thinking that, by escalating violence, the Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region) government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I am making this statement clear and loud here: That will not happen,” Ms Lam said.

Monday’s violence is likely to further inflame passions in Hong Kong after a student who fell during an earlier protest succumbed to his injuries on Friday and police arrested six pro-democracy politicians over the weekend on charges of obstructing the local assembly during a raucous May 11 meeting. All were freed on bail.

China’s ruling Communist Party has also indicated it may try to find a way to enact anti-subversion laws in the territory, after such measures were shelved previously due to public opposition.

While Beijing has dismissed reports it may replace Ms Lam next year, the party last week issued a statement saying it would “perfect” the system to appoint and dismiss Hong Kong’s leader and top officials.

In a widely distributed video, a police officer is shown shooing away a group of protesters at an intersection on Monday morning, then drawing his gun on a masked protester in a white hooded sweatshirt who approaches him.

As the two struggle, another protester in black approaches, at whom the officer points his gun. He then fires at the stomach area of the second protester, who falls to the ground. The officer appeared to fire again as a third protester in black joined the tussle.

The protester in white manages to flee, bounding up a nearby stairway, and the officer and a colleague pin the two in black to the ground.

Police said that only one protester was hit and that he was undergoing surgery. A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong hospital authority said the person was in a critical condition.

It was the second time a protester has been shot since the demonstrations began in early June, although police have repeatedly drawn their firearms to ward off attacks. More than 3,300 people have been arrested in the protests.

Police fired tear gas and deployed a water cannon in various parts of the city on Monday and charged onto the campus of Chinese University, where students were protesting. Video posted online also showed a police officer on a motorcycle riding through a group of protesters in an apparent attempt to disperse them.

A police spokesman said the shooting, burning and motorcycle incidents were all under investigation, but defended the officers’ actions as necessary to safeguard their own safety. He said two people were arrested in the shooting incident, including the person shot, but no one has yet been detained over the burning.

Protesters built barricades and blocked roads at about 120 locations across the city of 7.4 million and demonstrations were still ongoing, he said.

The protests began over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy and police accountability. Activists say Hong Kong’s autonomy and Western-style civil liberties, promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, are eroding.

PA

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