The Latest: UN rights office urges Hong Kong de-escalation
HONG KONG – The Latest on Hong Kong protests (all times local):
The U.N. human rights office is calling on authorities in Hong Kong to do all they can to de-escalate a standoff between security forces and anti-government protesters holed up in a university.
The spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, said it is concerned about increasing violence by young people “who are clearly very angry, with deep-seated grievances.”
Colville told reporters in Geneva that most protesters have been demonstrating peacefully, and that authorities had “by and large” respected the right to freedom of assembly.
He urged Hong Kong authorities to “address the humanitarian situation” of protesters at Polytechnic University whose situation was “clearly deteriorating.”
He said the rights office remains concerned about a possible further escalation of violence in Hong Kong.
China has accused America of “double standards” after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Hong Kong government bears the prime responsibility for restoring calm to the former British colony.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Tuesday that while the U.S. has “appeared to be fair” concerning pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, it harbors “ulterior intention to intervene ... and double standards on violent crimes.”
Geng said efforts by Hong Kong police to enforce the law should not be compared to the violent behavior of “extremist forces.”
Pompeo said Monday that the government must address public concerns because law enforcement alone cannot stop the unrest.
Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a framework that promised the territory certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland.
Hong Kong police spokesman Kwok Ka-chuen says police have not yet decided their next steps to end a standoff at Polytechnic University but are still hoping for a peaceful resolution.
Kwok said at a daily briefing Tuesday, “We will be closely monitoring the situation, will continue to collect intelligence and decide the next step to take.”
Asked whether a deadline had been set for the anti-government protesters inside to surrender, Kwok gave no specifics. He also did not address reports that the authorities are planning to cut power and water to the campus ahead of a final clearance operation.
Estimates of those remaining on campus run from 100 to 300. About 600 have walked out in recent hours, including about 200 minors who were allowed to return home after being questioned and having their photos taken.
Kwok and others said all adults leaving the campus would be arrested on suspicion of rioting and other offenses, based on the degree of violence witnessed at the school and surrounding areas.
Kwok said more than 3,900 gasoline bombs were discovered on another campus, Chinese University, and he expected that large numbers of homemade weapons were also being stored at Polytechnic University.
Pro-democracy group Demosisto says a Hong Kong court has rejected activist Joshua Wong’s appeal to change his bail conditions and travel abroad.
Demosisto said Tuesday on its Facebook page that Hong Kong’s High Court denied Wong’s application to leave the territory, citing the risk that he won’t return.
Wong, who heads Demosisto, was an outspoken leader of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution protests.
Wong and Agnes Chow, another prominent Demosisto member, were arrested in August for allegedly participating in and inciting others to join an unauthorized protest. Wong had just completed a 2-month prison sentence in June.
Demosisto said Wong was invited to speak in several European countries including France, Italy and Germany. The court said Wong can give his talks through video recordings.
Parents of some students holed up at a Hong Kong university say their children dare not surrender because the government has labelled them as rioters even though some were merely entrapped by a police siege.
A masked woman, who declined to be named, said her son went to the university two days ago and couldn’t flee since. She said her son wasn’t injured as he is a peaceful protester and that he told her there was enough food supply for a month.
Another mother, who concealed her face, said she was very worried as her son had refused to speak to her since their last conversation Tuesday.
A pastor, who only gave his name as Pang, said he represented the small group of parents to appeal to the government to be more compassionate in resolving the crisis without bloodshed. He said the students are willing to face the law but many are distrustful of police and were upset they were pronounced guilty of rioting by the government even before they were charged.
He said parents urged the government to drop the rioters tag on those remaining in campus.
Corrects pastor’s name to Pang, not Phua.
Japan’s government says a Japanese citizen was arrested near a Hong Kong university where hundreds of people were arrested in a police siege.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday confirmed the arrest of a Japanese man in his 20s on Sunday near Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Anti-government protesters were occupying the university after retreating from the other campuses where they held demonstrations last week. About 400 people who have left the Polytechnic University campus have been arrested.
Suga said the man is in good health and without injury, but refused to give further details, including his identity and the reason for his arrest. Japanese media identified him as Hikaru Ida, a student at Tokyo University of Agriculture.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that the man was visiting Hong Kong as a tourist.
China has appointed a new police chief in Hong Kong in a further illustration of the central government’s broad powers over the territory’s institutions.
The new chief, Chris Tang Ping-keung, said rebutting fake accusations against police and reassuring the public about the force’s mission would be among his priorities.
He said following a ceremony Tuesday morning: “We have to maintain the law and order in Hong Kong and there is a massive scale of breaking of law in Hong Kong and there is a certain sector of the community that also condones those illegal activities.”
Tang has been on the police force for more than 30 years and takes over from Lo Wai-chung, who is retiring after 35 years of service.
The Hong Kong government said Tang’s appointment was made “on the recommendation and nomination” of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, but with the final approval of the State Council, or Cabinet, in Beijing.
That’s similar to how Lam herself was put in office. The right to directly nominate and elect the chief executive is among the protesters’ key demands.
Hong Kong enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s safest cities and its police force was long hailed for its professionalism and incorruptibility.
However, the force’s image has suffered badly during the months of unrest amid allegations of excessive violence, harassment of citizens and connections with organized crime.
China’s rubber stamp parliament has criticized the Hong Kong high court’s ruling to strike down a ban on face masks.
A statement from the National People’s Congress’ Legislative Affairs Commission said some deputies had expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the court’s ruling. The statement said the decision “seriously weakened the rightful administrative powers” of Hong Kong’s leader and doesn’t conform with either the territory’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law, or the NPC’s decisions.
The commission said, “We are currently studying opinions and suggestions raised by some NPC deputies.”
The hint that Beijing may move to overrule the decision would possibly fuel further protests. The court ruled Monday that the mask ban infringes on fundamental rights more than is reasonably necessary for the furtherance of its goals. It was aimed at preventing protesters from hiding their identity to evade arrest but has been widely disregarded.
Creeping legal and political interference by Beijing is one of the key concerns driving the protests.
Hong Kong’s leader says an estimated 100 protesters remain holed up in one of the city’s main universities that had been blockaded by police.
Leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that 600 protesters had left the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus, including 200 who are under 18 years old.
Police have surrounded the university and are arresting anyone who leaves. Lam said those under 18 would not be immediately arrested but could face charges later.
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