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15.11.2019 Europe

Hong Kong unrest continues, civil servants to be sacked if arrested

REUTERS/Thomas Peter
NOV 15, 2019 EUROPE

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Friday, defying a warning by Chinese President Xi Jinping, as a campaign of mass disruption extended into a fifth straight day. And Hong Kong's government announced that civil servants arrested for taking part in the demonstrations will be fired.

In a letter to 180,000 civil servants on Friday, Secretary for the Civil Service, Joshua Law Chi-kong, said the government was extremely concerned about the arrest of civil servants for their involvement in unlawful activities.

“The government will not tolerate civil servants breaching the law,” he wrote.

“It will be difficult for the community to accept an arrested civil servant being allowed to continue to exercise the powers and functions of his office,” he said, adding that the officer will be fired “in the public interest”.

Meanwhile, protesters wearing black clothes and face masks occupied university campuses, while office workers endured another day of transport chaos with cancellations on the train network and roads blocked by barricades.

Hong Kong has seen protests since June as many in the city of 7.5 million people have vented fury at the erosion of freedoms under Chinese rule.

Those protests had been mainly in the evenings and on weekends, allowing the international financial center to function relatively smoothly during the week, albeit with its economy heading towards recession.

Blossom everywhere
With China offering no concessions, protesters switched tactics on Monday when they launched a "blossom everywhere" campaign to cause as much disruption as possible across Hong Kong and overwhelm the police force.

The hardline, pro-Beijing Global Times wrote on Friday that “1.4 billion people firmly stand with patriotic Hongkongers,” saying that demonstrators “are obviously attempting to intimidate citizens who love the country and Hong Kong, and silence pro-establishment politicians by creating black terror.”

Physical confrontation
The five-day 'strike' has also seen major universities become a hub for the protesters, while violence on both sides has escalated, and tensions have spread overseas.

On Thursday night Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng fell in London after being surrounded by pro-democracy protesters, in the most physical confrontation involving a member of cabinet since the unrest began.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Friday condemned the incident, describing it as a "barbaric attack".

Cheng walked away from the confrontation without any visible signs of injury.

Lunch with you
On Friday a "Lunch With You" event saw thousands of mainly office workers take to the city's streets, many chanting "Stand with Hong Kong" and raising an open hand with five fingers splayed.

The gesture is a reference to the five demands of the protest movement: revoke the extradition law (which has already been achieved), carry out an official inquiry into police brutality, release all those detained in connection with the demonstrations, revoke the government's definition of the demonstrations as “riots”, and hold elections for the post of Chief Executive and the Legislative Council under universal suffrage.