Hong Kong mulls emergency powers after violent night
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says “extreme violence” used by rioters has justified her decision to invoke emergency powers for the first time in half a century, following a night of violent protests.
The violence left the Chinese territory paralyzed, after protesters set fire in different subway stations and vandalized several businesses across the city.
“The radical behavior of rioters took Hong Kong through a very dark night, leaving society today half-paralyzed,” Lam said.
“The extreme violence clearly illustrated that Hong Kong’s public safety is widely endangered,” she said in a pre-recorded television announcement.
Lam said everyone was “very worried and concerned, or even scared”, in her first comments since Friday’s ban on face masks ordered on the basis of the emergency provisions.
“The extreme actions done by masked rioters were shocking,” she said.
Since they started in June, the protests have taken on an increasingly violent turn, with masked individuals vandalizing public and private property and attacking government buildings.
On Friday, protesters set fire to public properties and hurled petrol bombs at police. They attacked more than a dozen shopping malls, supermarkets, and branches of several banks. 0
The city’s rail operator, MTR Corp, which carries about 5 million passengers each day, said in a statement that the subway system remain closed on Saturday.
According to hospital authorities, more than 30 people were injured in Friday’s protests, two of them seriously.
Further protests are planned across the city through Monday, which is a public holiday.
The protests began in June against a then-proposed bill that would have allowed the extradition of suspects to mainland China courts for trial. Although the government fully dropped that bill on September 4, the protests have persisted.
Rioters were recently seen attacking police officers, who responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.
The Chinese government says foreign countries, mainly the United States and Britain, have been provoking the protesters by issuing statements of support. Beijing has asked the two countries to stop meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs.