Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has hinted at further measures to suppress the increasingly violent protests in the financial hub ahead of her annual policy speech, which will launch economic but not political measures in an attempt to douse widespread discontent.
Lam told a press briefing on Tuesday that the government will not condone the increasingly violent acts in recent weeks, which has seen activists hurling dozens of petrol bombs at police while others trashed metro stations as well as shops and banks seen as pro-Beijing. A home-made bomb was remotely detonated as a police car drove past on Sunday night and an officer also had his neck slashed by a protester.
Lam announced on 4 October that the government had invoked a colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance – last used 52 years ago – to pass a regulation forbidding the use of face masks, bypassing the legislature. The move sparked widespread anger and has since prompted hundreds of thousands to don masks and take to the streets in defiance of the ban.
Asked whether she would consider invoking emergency powers again to introduce more measures to quell unrest, Lam said “we need very strong reasons” to justify further measures, but also insisted that “we should consider every measure to end violence”.
Chinese president, Xi Jinping, warned during his trip to Nepal on Sunday that “anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” according to China’s state broadcaster, CCTV.
Lam called on ordinary Hong Kong people to support the police, although the increasingly severe police beatings of protesters, media and bystanders in recent months have caused sweeping resentment. Ordinary people yell obscenities when riot police officers are seen on the streets.
Lam said her annual policy address, scheduled for Wednesday when the legislature resumes sessions, would launch economic measures to ease the land and housing situation. Mainland Chinese officials have repeatedly said unaffordable housing and employment issues are the “root cause” of Hong Kong’s social unrest, although political scientists say economic sweeteners alone will not solve the city’s political crisis.
She condemned the violent attacks on mainland Chinese businesses, shops seen as pro-Beijing, and pro-government politicians’ offices. “To say these were to fight for freedom and democracy could not be further from the truth,” she said.
But she said her government remained committed to holding district council elections as scheduled on 24 November, despite the unstable social situation.
Meanwhile, the Communist party mouthpiece Xinhua news agency said “Hong Kong has slipped into a dangerous abyss and a critical moment” and urged the business sector and civil servants to shun political neutrality, show their support for the police and refrain from “condoning the rioters” for ruining the city’s prosperity.