Thursday 21 November 2019

Beijing calls for stronger action over protesters

Attacked: Pro-China politician Junius Ho was stabbed. Photo: Manan Vatsy/AFP/Getty
Attacked: Pro-China politician Junius Ho was stabbed. Photo: Manan Vatsy/AFP/Getty

Jessie Pang and Kate Lamb

Beijing supports bolder action to tackle the roots of unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for months, a senior Chinese official said hours after a knife-wielding man attacked a pro-China politician.

Han Zheng, a vice premier, said at a meeting with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in Beijing the anti-government protests were damaging the "one country, two systems" formula under which the former British colony has been governed since its handover to China in 1997.

"We firmly support the special administrative region government to adopt more proactive and more effective measures to solve the social problems," said Mr Han in the Chinese capital.

He said the social problems included unaffordable housing in the city, which is classified as a "special administrative region" of China.

Ms Lam announced housing and land reforms last month in an effort to regain support in one of the world's most expensive housing markets. She also defended her administration's response to the protests, which have included reviving colonial-era emergency laws.

What started as agitation against a now-scrapped extradition bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial, has widened into calls for full democracy and an end to perceived Chinese meddling.

Beijing denies interfering and blames foreign governments for fuelling the unrest.

China's Communist Party said it would not tolerate any "separatist behaviour" after some protesters called for independence. Mr Han said the violence had exceeded the "bottom line" of the rule of law and morality.

He was meeting Ms Lam after a man lunged at Junius Ho with a knife, the latest attack on candidates running in the city's November 24 district council elections.

A suspect was subdued and arrested. Mr Ho said he had suffered a knife wound to the upper left part of his chest but his life was not at risk. Two of his colleagues were also hurt, he said.

The attacker's motive was not known, but Mr Ho gained notoriety in July when he was filmed laughing and shaking hands with suspected triad gang members who assaulted young demonstrators.

An online video showed a man handing Mr Ho yellow flowers before taking a knife out of his bag and stabbing him before being tackled to the ground by Mr Ho's aides.

Ms Lam strongly condemned the attack.

Hundreds of black-clad students, meanwhile, protested against perceived police brutality and called for an investigation into injuries suffered by a student from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology fighting for his life after falling one floor in a car park.

Irish Independent

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