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Hong Kong leader warns violence won’t be tolerated

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference in Hong Kong on August 20, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Hong Kong’s leader says her government has a policy of zero tolerance for violence, shortly after masked people were seen attacking police officers during a protest rally.

In her first address to the public since demonstrations escalated on Sunday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that violence “is not differentiated by political opinions, background, and color, [and] the government and police will follow up with all illegal activities.”

Rioters engaged in fierce confrontations with security forces in the suburb of Tsuen Wan on Sunday. They hurled Molotov cocktails and bricks, and in one instance, they cornered a group of officers and attacked them with the weapons, according to police.

This prompted police officers to discharge their weapons for the first time during the protests over the past two months, firing warning shots, police said.

“Violence is not a solution to problems and the action should not be beautified or legalized; and we will not use force to de-escalate the problem,” Lam said. “We will use legal procedures. Hopefully, Hong Kong will return to peace as soon as possible. That will help us start a dialog and look into the problems in depth.”

She affirmed that her government could handle the unrest by itself and that she would not give up on building a platform for dialog.

Her remarks come days after Beijing warned that it would not sit idly by and watch as the violence by the protesters escalated.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.

A commentary on the official Chinese news agency Xinhua denounced the recent violence on Monday, saying, “If riots happen, the central government has to intervene.”

It said that Beijing had the authority and the responsibility to step in and quell the unrest in Hong Kong.

The commentary also called the protests a “color revolution” aimed at overturning the government in Hong Kong.

Protests began in Hong Kong as a series of rallies against a proposed bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited and stand trial in mainland China.

While the bill has been scrapped, protests have continued and morphed into riots.

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