Sunday, 6 October 2019

Violence Flares in Hong Kong as Emergency Rule Spurs Backlash

Violence Flares in Hong Kong as Emergency Rule Spurs Backlash(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong suffered one of its most violent weekends since anti-China protests began in June, with demonstrators paralyzing large swaths of the financial hub after leader Carrie Lam imposed emergency rule for the first time in more than half a century to ban face masks.On a holiday weekend normally packed with tourists, the city’s already reeling economy took another hit as banks, supermarkets and rail all cut service. MTR Corp., the rail operator, halted all travel except direct lines to the airport on Saturday for the first time since 2007. Train services remained limited on Monday, a holiday, with most stations closed due to vandalism. For the second time in a week, a teenage demonstrator was shot and wounded in scuffles with police.Through periods of torrential rain Sunday, police battled with protesters who occupied streets, vandalized property and targeted businesses with links to the mainland. Some demonstrators reportedly gathered outside the People’s Liberation Army downtown barracks for the first time.“From the huge turnout today you can see people aren’t abandoning us and the movement,” said a 17-year-old protester who gave his name as Rocky, wearing all black and a mask on his face. “Hong Kong people would only be angrier and more united if she rolled out more measures under the emergency law.”The increased violence showed that emergency law did little to deter protesters fighting for greater political freedoms, including the right to choose and elect their own leaders. That leaves Lam and her backers in Beijing with a difficult choice: Either take more drastic steps that could further erode Hong Kong’s autonomy from China and prompt a backlash, or come up with a political solution that is acceptable to most demonstrators.“The government started a very bad and dangerous precedent in invoking the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to enact this anti-mask law,” said Eric Cheung, a law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong and a member of the committee that elects the city’s leader. “There is growing distrust against the government, against the police.”Hong Kong’s financial markets will be closed for the public holiday on Monday. A 10th of the city’s ATMs were vandalized, the Hong Kong Association of Banks said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the financial system had adequate liquidity for withdrawals.Almost four months of growing discontent have taken their toll on the tourism and the retail industries, driving the city’s $360 billion economy toward recession. Financial Secretary Paul Chan warned in the Global Times last month that while Hong Kong likely entered a technical recession in the third quarter, the performance of the fourth will depend on whether the city can quell the unrest.Violence Escalates With Vandalism, Vigilantism: Hong Kong UpdateTourism from China declined 42% in August as the value of retail sales fell by almost a quarter. Luxury goods such as jewelry and watches are common purchases by mainland tourists, and the value of those sales slid by almost half. Some smaller store owners have closed down: In Hong Kong’s usually bustling Causeway Bay shopping district, one in 10 stores now stand empty, according to data from real estate agency Midland IC&I Ltd.Protesters initially hit the streets in June to protest a bill that would’ve allowed extraditions to mainland China. While Lam finally withdrew the proposal in September, the protests have since expanded to include calls for an independent inquiry into police violence and greater democratic accountability in the former British colony. The protests have become almost daily events with regular violent clashes between activists and police.Shot and InjuredA 14-year-old boy was shot and injured Friday night during a scuffle between a plainclothes police officer and demonstrators who had attacked his car. Just days earlier, police shot and injured an 18-year-old man who had attacked them during the National Day protests.On Sunday, violence flared again as protesters blocked roads and set fires. Video footage showed a bloodied man laying on a road after he was dragged out of the taxi he was driving through a crowd and stomped on by a group of protesters after the vehicle hit some of them.“Public safety has been jeopardized and the public order of the whole city is being pushed to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” the police said in a statement early Monday. “Police appeal to the public to report illegal acts and join hands to maintain public order.”The latest protests followed warnings from opposition leaders that Lam’s decision to invoke a colonial-era emergency law to impose the mask ban would only further anger the government’s critics.The High Court denied an application for an interim injunction by all 24 pro-democracy lawmakers on the ban of wearing of face masks during protests, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. The court adjourned a hearing on their application for a judicial review of the government measure to later this month, it said. The application followed another court’s rejection on Friday of a temporary suspension of the law sought by pro-democracy activists.While Lam has promised to address the underlying causes of the unrest and faced critics in a town hall event last month, she has so far refused to address protesters’ demands for greater democracy. Any solution requires the approval of Beijing, which is wary of any process that could produce a leader who challenges its rule over the city.Over the weekend, protesters began targeting Chinese state-run companies including major banks. A. Lau, a 26-year-old graphic designer who has joined with other protesters in vandalizing property, said the demonstrators were attacking government offices and “organizations against us.”“We are not irrational and we are not vandalizing arbitrarily,” he said. “We are venting our anger toward the authorities as they are not responding to us.”\--With assistance from Fion Li and Aaron Mc Nicholas.To contact the reporters on this story: Stanley James in Hong Kong at;Alfred Liu in Hong Kong at;Tian Chen in Hong Kong at tchen259@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at, ;Daniel Ten Kate at, Ian FisherFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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