Fri, 13 Dec 2019

Protesters at a top Hong Kong university once more blocked a nearby multi-lane highway after a top official said the government would never agree to the remaining four demands of the five-month-old pro-democracy movement, as Chinese border guards began turning back travelers trying to get into the city.

The move came after protesters barricaded into the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) following a police raid on the campus earlier this week had opened one lane in each direction as a "goodwill gesture" amid rumors the government is getting ready to cancel forthcoming district elections.

The government said it would continue with preparations for the polls, but that "risk factors" including large-scale damage to public infrastructure and threats to personal safety could still affect the poll.

Police at border crossings into Hong Kong from neighboring Shenzhen in Guangdong province started turning away passengers, saying there was no functioning public transport network on the Hong Kong side after protesters lobbed petrol bombs at an East Rail train traveling between Kowloon and the border stations of Lo Wu and Futiangang.

A second petrol bomb was thrown at a train going to Mong Kok East, forcing the train to stop, while protesters obstructed doors from closing on a train on the West Rail line, and riot police were sent to an altercation between passengers on a train in Tin Shui Wai.

Long lines of commuters formed for minibuses, the only functioning transportation, at Tai Po Market station.

'Just a rumor'

Hong Kong government second-in-command Matthew Cheung once more dismissed reports that the government would introduce a curfew as "just a rumor," and said that a deadline set by protesters for the government to meet their demands was meaningless, as the government had no plans to do so.

Police were dispatched to the Tolo Highway near CUHK, but the lull in clashes between riot cops firing rubber bullets and tear gas and protesters lobbing petrol bombs and other projectiles continued as schools and universities remained shut down for the third day in a row.

Elsewhere, protesters once more took to the streets in defiance of a warning by President Xi Jinping that the ongoing protests, disruption to daily life, and clashes with police were undermining the constitutional arrangements under which Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.

"Stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order is currently Hong Kong's most urgent task," Xi said during a state visit to Brazil.

Thousands of well-heeled office workers took to the streets across Hong Kong's Central District area, many chanting "Stand with Hong Kong" and raising an open hand with five fingers spread to indicate the five demands of the protest movement, which was sparked by government plans to allow extradition to mainland China.

Protesters vow to continue

Chief executive Carrie Lam formally withdrew a planned amendment to the city's extradition laws last month, fulfilling the first of the protest movement's five demands.

But protesters say they will continue until there has also been an amnesty for thousands of people arrested, the withdrawal of the official term 'rioting' to describe the movement, an independent inquiry into police violence against protesters, and fully democratic elections to the Legislative Council and for the post of chief executive.

Government officials have repeatedly ruled out these measures, while calling at the same time for "dialogue" with protesters.

In recent weeks, calls have been growing for the current Hong Kong police force to be disbanded, particularly after widespread reports of the sexual abuse and torture of detainees at the hands of police.

But a source close to the regime across the border in mainland China who gave only his surname Wu said Xi's strongman leadership style is unlikely to allow for any kind of compromise with Hong Kong protesters.

"He is getting more and more inflated, and believes himself to be omnipotent," Wu said. "They want to rule the whole world."

"They don't care about Hong Kong's future, and they couldn't care less about the lives of Hong Kong people," he said. "They just want it to shut up and do as it's told, like the rest of mainland China."

Beijing hits out at UK

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang hit out at the U.K., accusing the British government of encouraging the pro-democracy movement.

"[If the U.K.] continues to add fuel to the fire... then it will bring calamity on itself," Geng told a regular news briefing on Friday.

His comments came after Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng fell in London after being surrounded and jostled by pro-democracy protesters.

While Cheng walked away without any visible signs of injury, China called the incident an "appalling attack."

Beijing-based political commentator Zha Jianguo said the situation in Hong Kong was currently in stalemate, with unilateral concessions unlikely from government or protesters.

"If the front-line protesters continue to escalate their use of force, then that could force the hand of the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities," Zha said. "That could mean martial law in Hong Kong, or even the deployment of the troops stationed there."

Support from US lawmakers

In Washington, senior U.S. senators were gearing up to place legislation before the Senate that would require the U.S. government to review Hong Kong's special trading status in the light of human rights violations and political interference from China, a move that has been requested by the city's protesters for months.

Senators Jim Risch and Marco Rubio are hoping to get the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by unanimous voice vote, committing the secretary of state to an annual review of Hong Kong's autonomy and human rights situation.

It also would provide for officials deemed responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong to be targeted for sanctions, including U.S. asset freezes and visa refusals.

Reported by Fok Leung-kiu, Pan Jiaqing, Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Qiao Long and Lu Xi for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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