The Chinese government has rejected all five demands of the Hong Kong protesters, while police in the special administrative region have begun rounding up pro-democracy leaders.
According to Reuters—which cited three people with direct knowledge of matter—the Chinese Communist Party has ordered Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam not to bow to any of the protesters’ demands, including the full and final withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill that sparked the unrest in March.
Beijing was initially relatively restrained in its reaction to the protests, which have seen millions take to Hong Kong’s streets. But as the movement persisted, the Chinese government has become more vocal regarding what it has described as riots and “near terrorism.”
Nonetheless, Reuters noted that the Communist Party is believed to have been directing the Hong Kong’s government’s response to the unrest.
Lam submitted a report on the protests some time between June 16—when Lam announced the suspension of the proposed withdrawal bill—and August 7, Reuters reported citing two of its three sources.
Chinese government officials analyzed Lam’s report at a meeting on August 7 in the border city of Shenzhen, where Chinese military and paramilitary troops have been gathering in recent weeks. Reuters reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the report and the meeting to discuss it.
The protesters have five central demands: the full withdrawal of the extradition bill, an independent inquiry into the protests, fully democratic elections, dropping of the term “riot” in describing protests, and a general amnesty for all those so far arrested.
One senior government official in the Hong Kong administration told Reuters that the withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry—which would also consider allegations of police brutality—were seen as the more feasible, Communist Party officials rejected all of the requests.
Another officials, with close ties to senior Hong Kong official, told the agency: “They said no…The situation is far more complicated than most people realize.” The Chinese government instead ordered Lam not to withdraw the bill nor to launch an inquiry into the protests, Reuters said.
The extradition bill would have allowed the region’s government to extradite criminals to China for trial. Opponents feared it would allow Beijing to target political opponents in Hong Kong and undermine the “one country, two systems” accord under which the island has been governed since it was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have arrested multiple pro-democracy figures as they prepare for what will be the thirteenth weekend of consecutive marches. Among those detained was Joshua Wong, who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests, in which activists demanded full democratic elections in the territory.
Wong was arrested alongside fellow activist Agnes Chow on Friday. Both belong to the pro-democracy Demosisto movement, and have now been released on bail, the organization said.
Police have arrested more than 900 people since the mass demonstrations began in June, CNN reported. As the unrest wears on, clashes between police—occasionally backed by alleged pro-Beijing gangs—and anti-government activists have become increasingly violent.
Police have attempted to clear crowds using tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, water cannons and baton charges. Last weekend, a police officer fired a live round for the first time since the demonstrations began, as a warning shot to push back protesters.
Marchers have been arming themselves with helmets, gas masks, makeshift shields and clubs, while others have used projectiles—including accusations of Molotov cocktails—in clashes with officers.
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