Beijing on Monday responded to political unrest that has rocked Hong Kong for nearly two months, saying Hong Kong’s society would “suffer” if the protests continue.
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, the Chinese government agency responsible for coordination between the mainland and the two territories, on Monday held the first press conference of its 22-year history.
The agency expressed support for Carrie Lam, the embattled Hong Kong chief executive who is facing calls to resign, and for the Hong Kong Police Force, which has been accused of using unnecessary force against protesters.
An agency representative, Xu Luying, told reporters, according to The Australian: “We also believe that Hong Kong’s top-priority task right now is to punish violent and unlawful acts in accordance with the law, to restore social order as soon as possible, and to maintain a good business environment.”
And the agency said in a statement that “what has happened in Hong Kong recently has gone far beyond the scope of peaceful march and demonstration, undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and touched the bottom line of the principle of ‘one country, two systems.’”
“Hong Kong cannot afford to have instability,” the statement said. “Should the chaos continue, it is the entire Hong Kong that will suffer.”
The agency also said that Hong Kong’s government needed to address the concerns of its young people, like affordable housing and employment, according to Reuters.
Hundreds of thousands of people have gathered in the streets of Hong Kong for nearly two months of protests, some of which have turned violent. What initially started as a protest of a proposed bill that would allow for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China for trial has ballooned into a fight to uphold democracy in the semiautonomous region.
On Saturday, protesters clashed with the police in Yuen Long, the same district where days earlier a mob attacked pro-democracy activists and people at a train station, injuring at least 45 people. The police on Saturday fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had shown up to march despite a ban.
On Sunday, a peaceful march through the city’s central business district devolved into violence, as the police again fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters attempting to reach the Chinese government’s liaison office, which had been trashed by a group of protesters the week before.