HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam warned yesterday that the Chinese military could step in if an uprising for democratic reforms that has rocked the city for months “becomes so bad” but reiterated the government still hopes to resolve the crisis itself.
Lam urged foreign critics to accept that the four months of protests marked by escalating violence were no longer “a peaceful movement for democracy”.
She said seeking Chinese intervention was provided for under Hong Kong’s constitution but that she cannot reveal under what circumstances she will do so. “I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. That is also the position of the central government that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she told a news conference.
The protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill.
The unrest had pummelled tourism and hurt businesses in the global financial hub, further bruising the city’s economy as it grapples with effects of the United States (US)-China trade war.
US President Donald Trump on Monday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure a “humane solution” in Hong Kong. He warned that any “bad” outcome could hurt trade talks ahead of negotiations in Washington tomorrow. Hardening her government’s stance on the protests last week, Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law to criminalise the wearing of masks at rallies but it fuelled more anger, with continuous daily violence over the long holiday weekend. Police officers last week fired gunshots while under attack from protesters, wounding two teenagers who were the first victims of police gunfire since the protests started.
Enforcement of the mask ban began last Saturday, and Lam said it was too early to call it a failure.
Two people have been charged with violating the mask ban so far, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine upon conviction. She also pledged to continue dialogue and take steps to address livelihood and economic problems in a policy address due on October 16 when the Legislative Council resumes.