Hong Kong and China condemn ‘violent mob’ attack on official in London

Justice secretary targeted by protesters as situation in Hong Kong remains tense

Chinese and Hong Kong governments condemned an attack by a “violent mob” on the city’s justice secretary in London, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister during months of often violent protests. Video: Reuters

 

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments condemned on Friday an attack by a “violent mob” on the city’s justice secretary in London, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister during months of often violent protests.

Secretary for justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful”.

A statement by the Hong Kong government said Ms Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” but gave no details.

The Chinese embassy in the UK said Ms Cheng was pushed to the ground and sustained a hand injury.

“[Cheng] was besieged and attacked by dozens of anti-China and pro-independence activists,” the Chinese embassy said in a statement. The incident showed that the “violent and lawless perpetrators” were now taking their violence abroad, it said.

China has lodged a formal complaint with Britain and urged British authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. Police said they are investigating the alleged assault, but so far there have been no arrests.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam also strongly condemned the attack.

The former British colony’s government said in a separate statement: “The secretary denounces all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals, which would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilised society.”

The incident came amid escalating violence in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where a student protester died earlier this month after falling from a parking lot during demonstrations.

Cleaner killed

A 70-year-old street cleaner, who videos on social media showed had been hit in the head by a brick thrown by “masked rioters”, died on Thursday, authorities said.

The food and environmental hygiene department expressed profound sadness on Friday at the death of its worker and said it was providing assistance to his family.

Anti-government protesters paralysed parts of Hong Kong for a fifth day on Friday, forcing schools to close and blocking some highways as students built barricades in university campuses and authorities struggled to tame the violence.

Protesters used barriers and other debris to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to Kowloon district, leading to severe traffic congestion. The government once again urged employers to adopt flexible working arrangements amid the chaos.

Police conduct a clearence operation after office workers and pro-democracy protesters held a demonstration in Central, Hong Kong on Friday. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images
Police conduct a clearence operation after office workers and pro-democracy protesters held a demonstration in Central, Hong Kong on Friday. Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images
Demonstrators protest in the Central District in Hong Kong on Friday. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Demonstrators protest in the Central District in Hong Kong on Friday. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

The protests escalated in June over a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. They have since evolved into calls for greater democracy, among other demands.

Ms Cheng, the embattled Ms Lam’s chief legal adviser, played a key role in pushing forward the proposed extradition Bill that ignited the protests.

The months-long protests have plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis in decades and pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese president Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. Mr Xi said in Brazil on Thursday stopping violence was the most urgent task for Hong Kong.

‘People heartbroken’

Flash mobs again protested at lunch time in the heart of the financial hub and also in the eastern district of Tai Koo, where office workers wearing now-banned face masks chanted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time”.

“Things that happened in these few months have made people heartbroken,” said a 31-year-old office assistant who gave her name as Nicole.

“The government only came out to condemn rioters . . . They have never thought why so many rioters have emerged in our city and why ordinary citizens support them,” she said.

Thousands of students remain hunkered down at several universities, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, catapults and other homemade weapons.

Police said the prestigious Chinese University had “become a manufacturing base for petrol bombs” and the students’ actions were “another step closer to terrorism”.

Around 4,000 people, aged between 12 and 83, have been arrested since the unrest escalated in June.

The demonstrations have paralysed parts of the city and battered the retail and tourism sectors, with widespread disruptions across the financial centre and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism.

Chinese army drills

Video footage of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong’s Central business district on Friday showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against fake protesters carrying black umbrellas.

The anti-government protests have taken a heavy toll and Hong Kong confirmed on Friday it had fallen into recession for the first time in a decade amid concerns the economy could be in even worse shape than feared. – Reuters