Hong Kong leader criticises violence, chastises US over protests

Carrie Lam warns United States against interfering in Hong Kong affairs, as protesters continue democracy push.

    Hong Kong leader criticises violence, chastises US over protests
    Chief Executive Carrie Lam arrives for a news conference in Hong Kong on September 10 [Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

    Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday more violence would not solve the problems facing the Chinese-ruled city and warned the United States not to "interfere" in matters relating to the territory.

    Lam was speaking after another weekend of sometimes violent clashes after protesters marched to the US consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.

    The territory's Beijing-backed chief executive said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten "mutual benefits".

    "It's extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong's affairs," she told reporters.

    "I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act."

    After three months of unrest, Lam last week withdrew the extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to the mainland for trial and triggered the protests, but the move did little to appease demonstrators, who are continuing their push for more democracy in Hong Kong.

    On Tuesday night, they plan to gather at the World Cup qualifying match between Hong Kong and Iran.

    Chinese officials have accused foreign forces of trying to hurt Beijing by creating chaos in the city and warned other nations against interfering in the territory, saying the situation is an "internal affair".

    While some American politicians on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the democratic goals of the protesters, President Donald Trump's administration has maintained a more hands-off approach while it fights a trade war with China.

    Trump has called for a peaceful resolution to the political crisis and urged Beijing against a violent crackdown.

    Washington has rejected Beijing's allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims

    'Masters of our future'

    Anger over the now-shelved extradition bill has reinvigorated public opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014 when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied the streets of the central business district for 79 days.

    Since mass protests against the bill began in June, demonstrations have often degenerated into violent encounters between baton-wielding riot police and activists, leading to scores of injuries and about 1,300 arrests.

    Lam once again criticised the protesters on Tuesday.

    "The escalating and continuous violence cannot solve the problems we face in Hong Kong," she said.

    Some of the city's powerful tycoons have begun to appeal for calm.

    In his first speech mentioning the unrest, billionaire Li Ka-shing urged political leaders to offer young people an olive branch, calling them "masters of our future", according to an online video of remarks to a small crowd during a monastery visit on Sunday.

    Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" framework that guarantees the city freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland. Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding that autonomy. China denies the accusation.

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    SOURCE: News agencies