Hong Kong’s chief secretary, Matthew Cheung, the city’s No. 2 official, gave his “strongest condemnation” of this weekend’s protests. “If violence is continuing we must stop it, without further ado. No nonsense,” he said. “Society must go back to normal.”
Mr. Lee also criticized members of the public who supported the more extreme protesters.
“Rationalizing or tolerating these serious acts of violence will turn into approving of violence and encouraging violence, making the violence spread, pushing Hong Kong to the brink of malfunctioning,” he said. “Yet in society there are instances where society acquiesces to violence. So I urge Hong Kong civilians to collectively say no to violence, and safeguard Hong Kong’s order and rule of law.”
The protests began over a government proposal, since suspended, that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese control in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” model, with far greater civil rights protections than mainland China. But many people felt the extradition plan would undermine that.
The protesters’ demands have since grown to include an independent investigation into the police use of force, amnesty for arrested protesters and expanded direct elections.
So far, China’s leaders have not commented publicly on the violence over the weekend. The mainland Chinese news media, though, warned the protesters that the central government would not back down. On Sunday, People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said that the Hong Kong police were entirely justified in using force against the protesters.
“These rioters would be well advised that it would be childish to underestimate the capacity of the police to halt violence,” the paper said in an online article. “Standing by them are seven million Hong Kong residents, and the ‘police support squad’ of 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
Xinhua, China’s main state news agency, said the weekend mayhem proved that the protesters were determined to push Hong Kong into chaos, as part of what it said was a strategy of “color revolution” — the party’s term for Western-backed insurrection.