After massive protests in Admiralty and Sheung Wan and assaults in Yuen Long, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and principal officials condemned both the protesters and triad members for violence at a press conference this afternoon. The government also asked for public acceptance and patience for improvement.
Secretary of Security John Lee Ka-chiu condemned recent protesters for negatively impacting both the physical and mental health of policemen, and causing inconvenience to people trying to travel around the city.
“The level of violence observed in recent protests has stepped up from throwing bricks to even gasoline bombs,” Lee said, condemning the clashes, which he said would only bring more violence in Hong Kong.
Journalists present asked questions of the officials, but frequently received non-answers. Some were heard asking them to “speak human”, and show some decency, but several questions were answered with near-identical words which didn't address what had been asked.
When questioned about the planning of police operations in Yuen Long, Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo Wai-chung emphasised that manpower was stretched last night due to the protests on Hong Kong Island, and several simultaneous incidences, such as fighting and outbreak of fire.
The government reiterated that they will not tolerate violence in any form, and that they are trying their best to maintain law and order in Hong Kong. The police force, said Lo, “will not tolerate violence and has commenced the search for evidence”.
Lo further denied claims of seemingly discriminatory treatment for triad members, such as by refusing to answer emergency phone calls to 999, and the police's late arrival to the scene. He repeated that the police will take action to eliminate crime, saying that police and law enforcement were “sworn enemies”.
“Police stations were surrounded by groups of protesters, which had led to closure of stations. At the same time, more than a hundred calls were received, therefore some citizens may have waited too long and failed to connect.”
Lam was asked whether she could consider Yuen Long incident “terrorism”, given her characterisation of an earlier anti-Elab protest as a “riot”. She said that the previous characterisation was made before the government had gathered all the information, adding “The definition of 'riot' means nothing to future prosecution, as the Secretary of Justice will examine evidence independently.”
She was also asked why the press conference had not been given much earlier in the day, seeing as she had held a 4am conference to condemn the July 1 storming of Legco. Again, her response did not address the question.
Anti-fugitive bill protesters had sprayed graffiti and egged the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Sheung Wan, as well as throwing black paint over the national emblem. When asked whether the emblem was more important than safety of people in Hong Kong, Lam said that the “one country, two systems” and national reputation of the country hold “utmost importance”.