China has condemned the protesters who stormed the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Monday night for their “undisguised challenge” to the “one country, two systems” model.
The news came as reports circulated that Chief Executive Carrie Lam had asked the People’s Liberation Army to help restore order after protesters broke into the city’s parliament on Monday night.
The government denied a report that Lam asked the commander of the PLA’s Hong Kong garrison to intervene – and that her alleged request was rejected by Xi Jinping, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
The state-run People’s Daily published an unnamed editorial on its front page on Tuesday claiming that “extremists” used the anti-extradition bill as an excuse to destroy Hong Kong society and its rule of law.
The central government, it said, had unwavering support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her administration, as well as the city’s police force to strictly implement law enforcement.
The Communist Party mouthpiece said Hong Kong has a diversified society and it was not surprising to see disagreement and even major disputes on certain issues.
“However, if we fall into the whirlpool of ‘over-politicization’ and artificially create division and opposition, it will not only serve no purpose but will also severely hinder economic and social development,” the People’s Daily said, according to Reuters.
Bad for business
Confrontations and outbreaks of lawlessness in Hong Kong could damage the city’s reputation as an international business hub and seriously hurt its economy, it warned.
“Under the changes of a global economy and intensifying international competition, Hong Kong is already under great challenge and cannot bear turbulence and internal friction”.
The warning came after millions of Hongkongers took to the streets in June to join two massive protests against a bill to amend the extradition act, which Lam proposed early this year to allow fugitives to be sent to China.
Protesters have called on Lam to withdraw the bill, and to drop “rioting” charges laid against protesters after clashes with police on June 12 – and resign. But she is yet to respond.
The whole saga erupted again on Monday when protesters broke into the city legislature on Monday, which was the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to Beijing.
PLA emergency drill
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government issued a clarification late on Tuesday to deny a claim in an online media outlet that Lam had asked the People’s Liberation Army to assist in the handling of recent protests.
The spokesman expressed “deep regret over the untrue report by the media outlet involved”. But it gave no details of when or where the report was published.
Post 852, an online media outlet, put out a video commentary on Tuesday which said that Lam asked Major General Chen Daoxiang, the commander-in-chief of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison, to send troops to help restore order in the city – but the request was allegedly turned down by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission.
However, the Hong Kong Garrison of the PLA held an “emergency response drill” in waters near Hong Kong on June 26, a joint patrol exercise by members of the army, navy and air force which aimed to review and raise combat abilities for emergencies, ad-hoc deployment and joint operations.
But news and photos of the drill were only published on the PLA Daily on Tuesday, after protesters had ransacked the Legislative Council.
HK01.com, another online media outlet, reported that vice-premier Han Zheng – the top state leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs – traveled to Shenzhen last Sunday, the day before the handover anniversary to keep tabs on the situation in Hong Kong. It said it was not known if Han had returned to Beijing or not.
This was understood to be the second time in a month that Han went to Shenzhen to monitor the crisis in Hong Kong, which shows that Beijing has been highly concerned about the unrest and conflict provoked by the extradition bill amendment.
Han reportedly went to Shenzhen the first time after clashes erupted outside the LegCo on June 12. He met with Lam on June 14 in Shenzhen and she then announced that the extradition bill would be suspended, local media sources have said.
But the embattled Hong Kong chief refused to disclose any details when asked about her meeting with Han at her press conference on June 15.