- ‘Violence will only breed more violence,’ warns Lam, meeting the press with full team of top officials
- Police commissioner and city chief defend force against allegations officers arrived too late to rampaging mob in New Territories
Hong Kong's leader on Monday hit out at "shocking" violence in Yuen Long the night before, and the siege of the central government's office in the city by protesters who defaced the building facade and national emblem.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met the press with her full team of top officials as well as Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung on Monday afternoon, after a night of unprecedented violence in the city.
She strongly condemned the attacks in Yuen Long, which she described as shocking, and pledged police would fully investigate them.
"Violence is not a solution to any problem. Violence will only breed more violence," Lam said. "We absolutely do not tolerate such violence."
She said the attackers had shown complete disregard for the city's laws and offered her sympathy to those injured.
On Sunday night, at least 45 people were injured as suspected triad gangsters stormed into Yuen Long MTR station and attacked people inside. No police officer was in sight as the rod-wielding mob hurled objects at passers-by and assaulted them
Lam said the attackers "completely disregarded the law".
"Their behaviour was infuriating," she added. "We absolutely do not allow or tolerate such behaviour. I have already requested the police commissioner spare no effort in arresting the attackers."
The police force faced a barrage of criticism for failing to stop the rampaging mob. Residents complained that officers took too long to arrive and that, when they did arrive, the attackers had already fled.
Lam dismissed as "completely groundless" accusations that police colluded with the suspected triad members, saying they were an attempt by her critics to undermine the administration.
The embattled leader added that her determination to run the city, and that of her officials, had been unwavering despite the criticism of recent months.
Commissioner Lo said at the press conference that police got a call about the Yuen Long violence at 10.45pm on Sunday. When two officers arrived at the scene seven minutes later, they realised they did not have enough protective gear and so decided to call for help.
More officers arrived at 11.20pm.
"The police seriously condemn the violence. We do not allow such violent behaviour," Lo said, adding that officers would look into gathering evidence as soon as possible and make arrests.
Lo admitted police manpower had been stretched due to a series of extradition bill protests since last month.
"Every time there is a major event which may lead to violent confrontations, we have to redeploy some of our manpower in various districts to Hong Kong Island so I can ensure sufficient manpower to deal with these incidents," he said.
He categorically denied the alleged collusion between his officers and the Yuen Long attackers.
Asked why some police stations near the MTR station shut their doors on Sunday night, Lo said it was for safety reasons because big groups of protesters were surrounding them. He said the public could still reach the police by calling 999.
Also on Sunday night, the heart of Hong Kong's business district was turned into a war zone as riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into crowds of protesters to chase them off the streets, after a day of defiance during which the demonstrators laid siege to Beijing's liaison office for the first time during recent social unrest over the now-suspended extradition bill.
Protesters were angry at Lam's remarks that the legislation was "dead", demanding a complete withdrawal.
On the unrest outside the liaison office on Sunday night, Lam criticised the defacement of the national emblem on the front of the building, and said the protesters were challenging the country's sovereignty and the principle of "one country, two systems", under which Beijing promises the city a high degree of autonomy.
"We will seriously follow up on this and pursue it in accordance with the law," she said.
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