Hong Kong’s leader has warned that continued protests have pushed the territory to “a very dangerous situation.”
Carrie Lam’s comments came after repeated clashes in recent days between police and pro-democracy demonstrators. In some cases, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Protesters called for a general strike Monday. Many blocked major roads near government buildings, including the city’s parliament. Other protesters crowded around police stations. The strike delayed train and bus services across the territory and led to the cancellation of more than 150 flights.
Earlier, Lam spoke to reporters for the first time in two weeks. She warned that the continuing demonstrations were threatening Hong Kong’s security and severely harming the territory’s economy.
“They claim they want a revolution and to restore Hong Kong,” Lam said of the protest movement. “These actions have far exceeded their original political demands,” she added.
Lam was not directly elected as the territory’s chief executive. A mostly pro-China committee selected her for the position in 2017.
Protesters have been demanding that Lam resign over the government’s handling of the crisis. On Monday, Lam again rejected that demand. She said officials will continue to try to keep law and order in Hong Kong.
A police spokeswoman, Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan, told reporters Monday that 420 protesters have been arrested since June 9. That was the day of a massive demonstration, which started the movement.
Yu said those held faced charges related to violations involving rioting, unlawful gatherings and having offensive weapons. Others were accused of attacking officers or interfering with police operations.
Yu said at least 139 officers have been injured in clashes with protesters. Two who suffered broken bones remain hospitalized, she said. Yu added that violence against the police has increased, with some demonstrators using gasoline bombs and fire.
“We love Hong Kong and hope to restore public order,” Yu said. “If we continue to tolerate and turn a blind eye to lawless behavior, the consequences will be undesirable for our citizens.”
The protests began with demands for the Hong Kong government to withdraw a proposed extradition bill. The bill, which has since been suspended, would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
The protests grew into calls for greater democracy in Hong Kong.
Under the “one country, two systems” rule, Hong Kong is guaranteed the right to its own social, legal and political systems for 50 years following the end of British rule in 1997. However, some observers say China’s ruling Communist Party has ignored that agreement by forcing passage of unpopular laws.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and VOA News. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
restore – v. give back or return something to the way it used to be
exceed – v. to be more than a particular amount
original – adj. special or unusual; not the same as others
handling – n. the way in which something is dealt with
tolerate – v. to accept or permit something even though you do not like it
turn a blind eye – v. to choose to ignore something
consequence – n. the result of an action or situation, especially one with a bad result