HONG KONG (Reuters) – The Hong Kong authorities stated on Tuesday it deeply regrets the involvement of civil servants in protests which have plunged the Chinese-ruled metropolis into its largest disaster in a long time as activists plan recent demonstrations throughout the territory.
University college students sporting Guy Fawkes masks pose for a photoshot to help anti-government protests earlier than their commencement ceremony on the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, China, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung’s feedback got here after a commentary by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily stated Hong Kong civil servants who supported the anti-government demonstrations would “perish with the rioters”.
The demonstrations started over a since-scrapped extradition invoice and escalated in mid-June. Protesters have stored up their requires common suffrage and an unbiased inquiry into police habits, amongst different calls for.
The protests, which pose a grave problem to Chinese chief Xi Jinping, have acquired broad help from Hong Kong folks, together with some civil servants – one among whom was arrested on Oct. 31 for unlawful meeting – lecturers and monetary sector staff who’ve at occasions taken to the streets.
“In the past few months, a very small portion of the civil servants have broken the law, participating in illegal protests. We deeply regret that,” Cheung stated.
“I think citizens have expectations to our colleagues. Their first job is to serve society, serve the community. And to support government policies, that is the responsibility of the civil servants.”
In August, 1000’s of civil servants defied a authorities warning to stay politically impartial and joined a rally, whereas embattled chief Carrie Lam stated in September she regretted the arrest of some civil servants throughout protests.
While the quantity of people that participate within the principally weekend rallies has dwindled from the tens of millions who participated in June, the violence and vandalism have escalated. Authorities have refused permits for a lot of current protests, making them unlawful from the outset and activists liable to be arrested.
Cheung stated his administration would cherish and safeguard freedom of the press amid mounting criticism of what many see as extreme police power, together with in opposition to the media.
Officers have stated they’ve proven restraint within the face of escalating violence. Police canceled a deliberate information convention on Monday after a number of journalists from the general public broadcaster and different native media turned up sporting helmets with indicators that learn “investigate police brutality”.
Cheung is standing in for beleaguered Lam, who’s visiting mainland China, the place President Xi Jinping stated on Monday the central authorities had a excessive diploma of confidence in her.
Protesters have circulated plans on social media to mark Guy Fawkes Day on Tuesday by sporting the white, smiling Guy Fawkes masks made fashionable by anti-establishment hackers, the movie “V for Vendetta” and protesters globally.
Beijing-backed Lam banned face masks final month, invoking colonial-era emergency powers for the primary time in additional than 50 years, however protesters have largely ignored the ruling.
The demonstrations have battered the retail and tourism sectors, with preliminary authorities knowledge exhibiting the financial system slid into recession for the primary time in a decade within the third quarter.
An IHS Markit survey printed on Tuesday confirmed enterprise exercise in Hong Kong’s non-public sector fell to its weakest in 21 years in October, weighed down by anti-government protests and softening world demand.
Reporting by Donny Kwok, Farah Master Sharon Lam and James Pomfret; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel