Hong Kong police arrested at least 22 people during a series of protests targeting a Chinese National People’s Congress official visiting the city, authorities said yesterday.
The city has been plunged into political crisis after pro-democracy activists vowed to take over the streets of the city’s financial district following Beijing’s refusal to grant Hong Kongers full universal suffrage.
In the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable in the mainland, the congress’ Standing Committee Deputy Secretary-General Li Fei (李飛) has been dogged by angry demonstrations throughout his visit to the former British colony — including lawmakers heckling him during a speech on Monday.
Li is in town to explain China’s controversial proposal to control who stands for the top post in the city’s next leadership election, a decision that has prompted pro-democracy activists to embark on what they describe as a new “era of civil disobedience.”
Protesters have kept a vigil outside Li’s hotel, with renewed scuffles breaking out on Monday evening.
“During the protest, the participants forcibly pushed the mills barriers, charged the police cordon line and dashed onto the carriageway,” police said in a statement published yesterday.
Officers made 19 arrests outside the luxury Grand Hyatt Hotel in Wan Chai District late on Monday. Eighteen of the protesters were arrested for “unlawful assembly,” the statement said.
The other activist was arrested for obstructing a police officer, it added.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have demanded that Britain drop an inquiry into the progress of Hong Kong’s democratic reforms, accusing it of “highly inappropriate” interference in Chinese affairs, the BBC reported.
The broadcaster said it had seen a letter from China’s Foreign Affairs Committee to its British counterpart condemning the probe into the state of democracy since Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.
The letter said the British probe, announced in July, would be a “highly inappropriate act which constitutes interference in China’s internal affairs.”
It urged British lawmakers to “act with caution on the issue of Hong Kong, bear in mind the larger picture of China-UK relations and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and cancel the inquiry on UK-Hong Kong relations.”
The deal that handed Hong Kong back to China guaranteed some freedoms and a semi-autonomous status, and the British foreign secretary reports to parliament on the territory every six months.
An official with the British Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the BBC he wanted to avoid any misunderstanding.
“My job and the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s job is to look at whether Britain has complied with its undertakings and if China has not complied with its obligations,” committee Chairman Richard Ottaway told the BBC. “I think this is a right and proper procedure. I don’t particularly want to irritate the Chinese. I want them to understand the procedure. It may well be that my committee will decide that actually the Chinese have behaved perfectly reasonably.”