Pompeo Calls on Lam to Allow Independent Probe: Hong Kong Update

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Pompeo Calls on Lam to Allow Independent Probe: Hong Kong Update

(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam urged protesters holed up in a university to heed police calls to surrender, as tens of thousands of protesters marched to support the trapped demonstrators.

Police and protesters clashed around Hong Kong Polytechnic University for much of the day, leading to multiple arrests and injuries. Running battles have occurred, with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who threw bricks and Molotov cocktails.

Demonstrations seeking greater democracy in the Beijing-controlled territory have become increasingly violent in recent weeks, with protesters vandalizing transportation networks and China-friendly businesses as they push for demands including an independent probe into police violence and the ability to nominate and elect city leaders.

Key Developments:

Lam decries violence near universityTens of thousands march to rescue campus demonstratorsOfficial says chaos putting Sunday’s election at riskMediators try to persuade protesters to leave campus peacefully

Here’s the latest:

Pompeo calls on Lam to allow independent probe (4:06 a.m.)

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. is “gravely concerned” about rising violence in Hong Kong and called on Lam to allow an independent probe of protest incidents.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Monday afternoon, Pompeo said violence by any side in the dispute is “unacceptable,” but he singled out Hong Kong’s government as having a primary responsibility to keep events peaceful.

Pompeo’s comments followed an earlier White House statement calling on Beijing to “honor its commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and to protect Hong Kong’s freedom, legal system, and democratic way of life.”

Tsang, school principals try to coax out protesters (11:54 p.m.)

Former Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang and law professor Eric Cheung tried to persuade protesters to leave the campus peacefully, pledging to accompany them to police stations to ensure they won’t be treated violently. “If there’s tear gas, I will get it first,” Tsang said.

Separately, some 20 secondary school principals arrived at the campus to escort students off the premises as clashes continued between demonstrators and police in the nearby area. An estimated 150 secondary school students are stuck, with some suffering injuries, Li Kin-man, one of the principals told reporters. Police have promised to let those under 18 years old leave after recording their identity, he said.

Thousands reinforce trapped campus demonstrators (9:55 p.m.)

Tens of thousands of protesters heeded calls to reinforce and save the demonstrators trapped in the PolyU campus, using umbrellas to battle back tear gas and water cannons in nearby Tsim Sha Tsui.

Police fired tear gas at high points of the campus buildings after a number of protesters tried to escape by abseiling out, according to Radio Television Hong Kong.

U.K. government ‘seriously concerned’ (8:45 p.m.)

The U.K., which handed Hong Kong over to Chinese rule in 1997, said it was “seriously concerned” by the escalating violence from both protesters and authorities around university campuses in the city.

“It is vital that those who are injured are able to receive appropriate medical treatment, and that safe passage is made available for all those who wish to leave the area. We need to see an end to the violence, and for all sides to engage in meaningful political dialogue ahead of the District Council elections on Sunday,” according to a statement attributed to a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson.

Officials warn public to steer clear of PolyU (6:20 p.m.)

Top Hong Kong officials urged the public not to approach or reinforce the PolyU campus amid calls for rallies near the university. Security Secretary John Lee urged those remaining at the campus to surrender to police in an orderly and peaceful manner. He condemned the use of weapons by protesters, including remote-controlled bombs, catapults and petrol bombs.

As the standoff ground on, Matthew Cheung, the city’s No. 2 official, vowed that the government was determined to tackle “deep-seated problems” and that ending violence remained its top priority.

Violence putting election at risk (5:36 p.m.)

The escalating violence in recent days has “reduced the chance of holding” citywide District Council elections as scheduled Sunday, Patrick Nip, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, told reporters Monday. Nip said staff at polling stations and candidates must feel safe on election day and that people need to be able to get to the polls without disruption.

“Postponing would be a difficult decision,” Nip said, adding that the government wouldn’t take such a step “unless absolutely necessary.”

Lam decries PolyU violence (5:18 p.m.)

Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, decried the chaos around PolyU in a Facebook post Monday, blaming “rioters” for continuing “to escalate the level of violence.” “Police have repeatedly made appeals and people in PolyU campus should listen,” she said.

Protesters call for rallies (5:14 p.m.)

Protesters have called for rallies from 7 p.m. in Tsim Sha Tsui, a location near the university, to support those who are stuck in PolyU.

City’s No. 2 to meet media (5:11 p.m.)

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and Secretary for Security John Lee will meet the media at 6 p.m. local time at the government headquarters, according to a statement.

Police tell university protesters to surrender (4:23 p.m.)

Protesters inside PolyU should stop their violence immediately and surrender as the situation is getting “risky,” Cheuk Hau-yip, regional commander of Kowloon West, told reporters at a briefing on Monday. He said all protesters leaving the university would be arrested for participation in a riot.

Police are most concerned about fires being lit as “rioters” charge at them outside PolyU, he said, without giving an estimate on how many protesters are still there. He also said police arrested a group of demonstrators who claimed to be volunteer first aid workers and journalists.

Police said they allowed Red Cross volunteers into the PolyU campus around 2 p.m. to offer medical assistance to those injured. Some of them were brought to the hospital, according to a statement on Facebook.

About 600 still trapped, SCMP reports (4:07 p.m.)

About 600 people are still trapped on the PolyU campus, the South China Morning Post reported, citing Derek Liu Kin-kwan, president of the university’s student union.

Clashes as protesters flee university (2:05 p.m.)

Police fired tear gas and made arrests as dozens of black-clad protesters ran to escape Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which is under siege by officers. Television images showed police wrestling some protesters to the ground, and at times beating them with batons, while others climbed down trees next to an overpass to avoid arrest.

It was unclear how many protesters remained in the university. Several police appeared to point guns at protesters, but there were no indications that anyone was shot.

Schools to remain closed (1:30 p.m.)

Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said schools will remain closed Tuesday “since there are still unstable factors affecting the roads and traffic conditions and more time should be given for schools to make good preparation for class resumption.” Schools have been suspended since last Thursday on safety concerns. Some primary and secondary schools are expected to resume classes Wednesday, while kindergartens, schools for children with physical disability or intellectual disability will remain closed till Sunday.

Mask ban found unconstitutional (1 p.m.)

A Hong Kong court ruled that the mask ban imposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government was incompatible with the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that governs the financial hub. The High Court ruled that the ban, which has been widely ignored by protesters, went further in curbing people’s fundamental rights than the situation warranted.

Hong Kong’s government had invoked a colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance to pass the prohibition on face-coverings, angering protesters and igniting fresh protests. Recent protests have seen thousands of people wearing masks in contravention of the law, and many have been arrested for violating it.

Protesters gather once again in Central (12:45 p.m.)

Protesters, including many professionals and office workers, have started gathering and blocking roads in Hong Kong’s Central financial district. Last week, there were five-straight days of lunch time protests in the heart of Asia’s key financial hub, with many white-collar workers hitting the streets to chant protest slogans. Police fired numerous tear gas volleys in the area last week, sending bystanders and office workers running for cover past the area’s luxury retail outlets.

Goldman Sachs cancels anniversary event (12:30 p.m.)

Goldman Sachs Groups Inc. is postponing a Hong Kong event to mark the firm’s 150th anniversary. The celebration was scheduled to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong, but was delayed because of ongoing protests, according to an email the bank sent to attendees.

Police urge protesters to drop weapons (11:46 a.m.)

In a series of Twitter posts, Hong Kong’s police force urged protesters to drop their weapons, remove their gas masks and leave PolyU in an “orderly manner” without making any menacing moves toward officers. A large group of “masked rioters” armed with petrol bombs charged at police cordons around 8 a.m., police said.

Carrie Lam visits officer in hospital (11:30 a.m.)

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam visited an injured police officer at the city’s Kwong Wah Hospital, according to the South China Morning Post, which tweeted a video of her emerging from a hospital building. She declined to take any questions.

Protests block roads in Kowloon (11:10 a.m.)

Small groups of protesters blocked roads in the Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui areas, not far from the standoff at PolyU. Activists had issued calls on social media for demonstrators to come out to the Kowloon area, as well as Central, to support protesters still at the university. So far, there were no significant crowds in Central.

Military defends clean-up effort (10:35 a.m.)

A spokesman for China’s military defended the decision by the local People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to come out into the streets Saturday and help clean up from last week’s protests. The soldiers “joined the citizens in clearing these road blocks and their efforts were welcomed by the Hong Kong citizens,” Senior Colonel Wu Qian told a briefing Monday on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Bangkok.

“Ending violence and restoring order is the most pressing task we have in Hong Kong,” Wu said, citing a similar statement by Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.

Dozens of protesters detained (9 a.m.)

Police detained dozens of protesters in Tsim Sha Tsui East, near the PolyU campus, where clashes have been the most intense in recent hours. At least 30 could been seen on television feeds sitting on the ground with their hands restrained. It was unclear how many protesters and students were still on campus.

–With assistance from Stanley James, Linus Chua, Sebastian Tong, Shelly Banjo, Glen Carey, Fion Li, Shawna Kwan and Karen Leigh.

To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Annie Lee in Hong Kong at olee42@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Chris Kay, Bill Faries

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