Thu, Aug 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Chinese officials meet to discuss ‘severe HK crisis’

LASER FOCUS:Police late on Tuesday fired tear gas at protesters demanding the release of a student who was detained for buying laser pointers

Reuters, HONG KONG

Lawyers hold a silent march through Central yesterday against what they say is political persecution by Hong Kong’s secretary for justice.

Photo: AFP

Hong Kong is facing its worst crisis since its return to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong Liaison Office Director Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) said yesterday.

“Hong Kong’s crisis ... has continued for 60 days, and is getting worse and worse,” Zhang said during a meeting in Shenzhen, China.

“Violent activities are intensifying and the impact on society is spreading wider. It can be said that Hong Kong is now facing the most severe situation since its handover,” he added.

Zhang yesterday held a forum to discuss the political crisis, which included Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. No opposition democratic figures or protest representatives were invited.

Speaking after the meeting, several attendees said that Zhang cited speeches by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in 1984 and 1987 in which he said if “turmoil” occurs in Hong Kong, “the central government must intervene.”

However, no specific mention was made of deploying the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which has a garrison in Hong Kong, to quell the unrest, with Zhang cited as saying that Beijing remained confident in the Hong Kong government and local police.

Former Hong Kong secretary for justice Elsie Leung (粱愛詩) said she felt that even if the PLA were deployed it would not conflict with “one country, two systems.”

“’One country, two systems’ would continue,” she said.

In China’s sharpest rebuke yet of the protesters, the government on Tuesday warned them not to “play with fire” and called on Hong Kongers to protect their homeland.

The Global Times showed a video on Twitter of thousands of police officers taking part in an anti-riot training drill in Shenzhen.

Several thousand Hong Kong lawyers dressed in black marched in silence yesterday to call on the government to safeguard the independence of the territory’s Department of Justice.

The territory’s lawyers fear the department’s prosecutions of arrested protesters are taking on an increasingly political slant with more than 500 arrests, many charged with rioting, an offense that carries a 10-year jail term.

One lawyer who declined to be named said that she was marching “to make sure the government knows that within the legal sector, we will not allow judicial independence to be compromised by politics or pressure from the Chinese government.”

“All we want is justice and all we want is consistency,” said prominent lawyer Kevin Yam (任建峰), who also protested. “We don’t want to see thugs get away while the best of our youth get prosecuted. We uphold the rule of law and we ask for justice.”

Police late on Tuesday fired tear gas in Sham Shui Po, as protesters gathered outside a police station to demand the release of Keith Fong (方仲賢), a student union leader from Baptist University, who they say was unlawfully arrested by several plainclothes police for buying laser pointers on the grounds that he possessed offensive weapons.

Protesters have sometimes aimed lasers, which are widely available in shops, at police during clashes.

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