The Chinese media has called for “zero tolerance” after protestors in Hong Kong stormed and vandalised the territory’s parliament on Monday night.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has accused protestors of “extreme use of violence” after the demonstrators tore down portraits and spray-painted pro-democracy slogans in the main chamber on Monday afternoon. Police eventually regained control by firing tear gas and charging at demonstrators.
The Times describes the uprising as “an unprecedented challenge to China’s Communist rulers,” while CNN predicts further unrest among the young protestors who have been “invigorated” by the partial victories they scored in the campaign against the extradition bill.
The protests represent a “personal challenge” to China’s leader Xi Jinping, The Guardian says. The “scale and persistence of the unrest, combined with growing street violence, may force him to get involved – or risk losing his ‘strongman’ image”, the paper adds.
Ms Lam said the sight of protestors occupying the legislature “really saddens… and shocks a lot of people”. The activists had defaced the emblem of Hong Kong, raised the old British colonial flag and shattered furniture.
Lam added that the actions of those who broke in were “something that we should seriously condemn, because nothing is more important than the rule of law in Hong Kong”.
She contrasted Monday’s dramatic events with the annual handover commemoration march on 1 July, which she said reflected “the core values we attach to peace and order” in Hong Kong.
“I hope the community at large will agree with us that with these violent acts that we have seen, it is right for us to condemn it, and hope society will return to normal as soon as possible,” she added.
The Chinese media has called for “zero tolerance” approach to the protests. “Out of blind arrogance and rage, protestors showed a complete disregard for law and order,” the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said in an editorial.
Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but it is still administered separately under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems”. This means the city enjoys freedoms and rights unheard of on the autocratic mainland, but many residents believe Beijing is preparing to renege on that deal.
The response from Britain has reflected these concerns. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: “I’ve never had to fight for my freedom. We can’t take freedoms for granted. Seeing those scenes, my heart goes out to those worried they’ll lose their precious way of life. I don’t support violence in any circumstances but I understand their worries about changes happening in Hong Kong.”