Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has warned protesters they were pushing the city “into an abyss” by attacking its institutions, in what she called attempts to “destroy the rule of law”.
The chief executive said the mass sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport, which forced the cancellation of all outgoing Monday flights from 4pm, as well as police station sieges and widespread road blocks during protests, had made the city no longer safe.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday morning before reconvening the Executive Council, her de facto cabinet, Lam said: “Hong Kong is seriously wounded. It will take a long time to recover.”
She asked protesters whether they wanted to “push Hong Kong into an abyss”.
“We need to object to violence and maintain the rule of law ... When this all calms down, we will start to have sincere dialogues and rebuild harmony.”
On the airport’s effective closure on Monday, Lam said: “There is no need for me to elaborate on how important the international airport is to Hong Kong."
“Every day, a lot of residents go out and return to the city [through the airport], and many tourists and business people uses this transport hub. But it had to close down on Monday.”
But Lam declined to say if police had done anything wrong on Sunday and over the past two months.
On police’s firing of tear gas in Kwai Fong train station and the use of force on an escalator in Tai Koo station on Sunday, Lam said the force had to make difficult decisions.
“Officials like us have to make policy decisions. Similarly, police officers have to make judgments, and sometimes it’s hard ... and it’s a dilemma for them,” she said, adding police officers could not turn a blind eye and had to enforce the law.
The chief executive also said police had been following guidelines and using minimum force when dealing with protesters.
Lam also declined to say if Beijing had been stopping her from meeting protesters’ demands, such as fully withdrawing the now-shelved extradition bill, and appointing a a judge-led Commission of Inquiry to look into the whole controversy.