Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday said Hong Kong is facing “unprecedented, serious and complicated situations” following months of civil unrest.
Speaking at a press conference with Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam in Beijing, Li said she had risen to the challenges. However, he placed the responsibility of safeguarding “the city’s long-term prosperity and stability” on her government.
“Hong Kong has yet to come out from the difficulties,” Li said in comments circulated by Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post. “The city’s government must continue to make efforts in stopping violence and ending chaos in accordance with the law, and restore order.”
Lam is also expected to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later on Monday.
No end in sight
For months, protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong, disrupting commercial activity, establishing road blocks and occupying official buildings. What started as opposition to an extradition bill in June has since evolved into a movement calling for more democratic rights and further autonomy from mainland China.
Lam has been a crucial target of the demonstrations, with activists calling on her to step down and for authorities to investigate what they describe as widespread police brutality during crowd dispersal operations.
Although initial demonstrations remained peaceful, the protests have now become more violent due to clashes with police.
Hong Kong, a bustling commercial hub in the heart of Asia Pacific, has seen its economy dip into recession following the unrest.
Around 7,000 out of 64,000 licensed retail establishments have indicated they will likely close in the next six months if the economic downturn continues, according to the Hong Kong Retail Management Association.
The Hong Kong administration has vowed to free up $3.2 billion in stimulus to jump start the economy. However, observers believe the cash injection will do little to that effect if the unrest continues.
ls/ng (AP, Reuters)
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