Hong Kong’s leader said Tuesday that “it’s totally irresponsible and unfounded” to suggest the semi-autonomous Chinese territory is becoming a police state as her government grapples with protests now in their fifth month.
Carrie Lam has defended Hong Kong’s 30,000-strong police force, now widely detested by protesters for its riot-control methods and nearly 2,600 arrests.
Responding to criticism from visiting U.S. senators, Lam also said that she challenges every politician to ask themselves what they would do if faced by the scale of violence seen in Hong Kong.
The protests started in June over a contested extradition bill that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China and have snowballed into an anti-government, anti-police and anti-China movement. The protests have increasingly ended in violence between hardcore demonstrators and police.
Police on Monday said a homemade, remote-controlled bomb intended to “kill or to harm” riot control officers was detonated as they deployed against renewed violence in Hong Kong over the weekend. Police say the device exploded not far from a police vehicle, but no one was injured.
An 18-year-old was to appear in court Tuesday facing a charge of intentional wounding for a slashing attack Sunday with a sharp blade, described as a box cutter by Hong Kong media, that cut a police officer’s neck and severed a nerve.
The teen was initially detained on a preliminary charge of attempted murder. Police said the wounding charge is punishable by life imprisonment.
Despite repeated government appeals for people not to take the side of those involved in vandalism, throwing gasoline-bomb and other violence, the protest movement is still rousing determined support from more moderate demonstrators, broadly worried about the future of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory and its freedoms, unique in China.
Lam on Wednesday will deliver an annual policy speech to address some underlying problems in Hong Kong that have also fueled discontent, including its wealth gap and shortage of affordable housing.