Hong Kong makes police housing areas off limits to protesters
HONG KONG – A Hong Kong court has granted an injunction to ban anyone from blocking or damaging areas used to house married police officers and other disciplined services that have been targeted in more than four months of anti-government protests.
The move is the government’s latest step to try to check the protests following Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision earlier this month to invoke colonial-era emergency measures to outlaw face masks, used by protesters to hide their identity and withstand tear gas.
Lam said on Tuesday that while every means should be considered to quell unrest, concessions to the protesters in the face of escalating violence would make matters worse.
“I have said on many occasions that violence will not give us the solution. Violence would only breed more violence,” Lam told a news conference.
Demonstrators have besieged and hurled petrol bombs at police housing areas in the Chinese-ruled city, damaging facilities, police said in a statement on Tuesday.
The injunction on protests in police housing areas also prohibits the obstruction of roads and bans people from shining laser pens or other flash lights at police facilities.
In August, after protesters mobbed the Hong Kong airport and brought it to a standstill, the High Court issued an injunction banning anti-government protesters from targeting what is one of the world’s busiest airports.
Protesters, many masked and wearing black, have thrown petrol bombs at police and central government offices, stormed the Legislative Council, blocked roads to the airport, trashed metro stations and lit fires on the streets of the Asian financial centre.
Police have responded with tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, bean-bag rounds and several live rounds, warning the crowds beforehand with a series of coloured banners.
The government refuses to concede to the protesters’ demand for an independent inquiry into accusations of police brutality. Police, who have beaten protesters on the ground with batons, say they have shown restraint.
Protesters have also called for universal suffrage, but on Tuesday the South China Morning Post reported that Lam had told the European Union’s representative in Hong Kong there was nothing to be gained by opening a discussion on that topic because it could not be delivered at present.
The protests began in opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China, but have broadened into a pro-democracy movement amid fears that Beijing is undermining Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, which gives it wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland.
Tens of thousands of mostly young pro-democracy activists pleaded for help from the United States on Monday evening in the first legal protest since the mask ban took effect on Oct. 5.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz spoke in support of the protest movement on the weekend, in the highest profile visit by a U.S. politician since the unrest broke out.
Cruz said there was “overwhelming bipartisan support” in the U.S. Congress for the people of Hong Kong and called on the Senate to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights Act to allow sanctions on those who undermine the city’s autonomy.
The Hong Kong and Chinese governments have repeatedly warned foreign governments not interfere in the territory’s internal affairs or fan anti-China sentiment.
District council elections due on Nov. 24 will be a key gauge of public sentiment. Rumours have swirled that the government might postpone the election due to the protests.
Lam said the government wanted to hold “fair, open, honest” elections, although attacks on offices of pro-establishment politicians by protesters had cast a shadow over the vote.
(Content & Photos Syndicated Via Reuters)
(Additional reporting by Twinnie Siu, Farah Master and John Ruwitch in Hong Kong; Editing by Stephen Coates)