Chief Executive Carrie Lam spoke out against violence on Monday, condemning both the protests at the China Liaison Office and the violent assaults in Yuen Long.
Lam called the attacks in Yuen Long “shocking,” and said she has called on Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo to fully investigate the incident and pursue lawbreakers with every effort.
“Violence is not a solution to any problem. Violence will only breed more violence, and at the end of the day, the whole of Hong Kong and the people will suffer as a result of the loss of law and order,” Lam said. “I call on all sectors and the public to safeguard the rule of law and say no to violence.”
Hours after an anti-extradition march ended on Hong Kong Island on Sunday, a group of people in white accused of beating up residents, journalists and a lawmaker in Yuen Long. Forty-five people were injured with one man in critical condition, but police have yet to make arrests as of Monday morning.
On Monday afternoon, Lam started her statement by condemning the protests at the China Liaison Office, saying that the act of defacing the national emblem was a challenge to national sovereignty, and touches the bottom line of One Country, Two Systems.
Asked if she would characterise the Yuen Long incident as a “riot,” Lam said she wanted to avoid such as classification to prevent “misunderstanding and anxiety” from the public. Lam faced widespread criticism after she called the events of June 12 a “riot,” and protesters have called for her to retract the characterisation.
Lam added that such a characterisation would be meaningless in the context of criminal prosecution, since it was ultimately up to the prosecutors to decide which charges to use.
In its statement issued last night, the Hong Kong government said the situation in Yuen Long led to “confrontations and injuries,” but made no mention of weapons. Lam defended the use of the word “confrontation,” saying that at the time the government did not possess all the facts of the situation.
The chief executive said that her administration was not dodging the issue, and only chose to meet the press on Monday afternoon because they needed time to gather information.
Police commissioner Lo also said there were four police officers hurt during the Hong Kong Island protests on Sunday, and some police stations had to suspend their service due to protests.
As for the police response in Yuen Long, Lo said that the delay was due to the lack of police manpower, as many officers had been deployed to Hong Kong Island to deal with the protests.
“Our manpower is stretched, because every time when there is a major event, which may lead to violent confrontations, we have to redeploy some of our manpower from various districts to the Hong Kong Island,” Lo said.
There were two patrolling officers who arrived on the scene at 10:52pm, but had to leave because they did not have the proper gear. The local police station also closed its gate out of “safety reasons,” but Lo said the public could still call the 999 reporting hotline.
Lo rejected the accusation that police colluded with triads, saying that the two are “polar opposites.” He added that the police will review their deployment on Sunday.
Secretary for Security John Lee said that there was a trend of escalating violence at recent protests, with protesters becoming more and more brazen in breaking the law.