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Global Times

Seeking Beijing's help is one option to end riots: ex-security official

Global Times

By Zhao Yu, Bai Yunyi and Cheng Zhong in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/15 22:03:40

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government needs to be more courageous in carrying out effective measures to end riots, said Hong Kong's former security minister.

To ask for Beijing's help in dealing with the ongoing riots is one option for Chief Executive Carrie Lam's office, and it always depends on the HKSAR government, said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, also a member of the Hong Kong government's Legislative Council.

She explained that the chief executive of the HKSAR government could consider enhancing the police force by appointing special constables and temporary police, or by hiring mercenaries and even mainland security forces, amid citywide riots paralyzing the city for consecutive weekdays.

"Some foreigners who live here also expressed their hope for an end to the violence, and have asked me why Beijing wouldn't step in and come to help us reach this goal," she said.

Based on the Basic Law's Article 14, Lam could ask help from the People's Liberation Army, and Article 18 gives power to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to declare a state of emergency and send in the army. "But I think it's not the option of our nation," Ip said.

However, the HKSAR government does not have many options by enacting its own laws, and seeking the help of the central government has always been an option, but it depends on how the HKSAR government acts to strengthen the police force, she said. "We need at least 5,000 police officers," Ip said.

The city has been engulfed in anti-government protests for about five months while escalated violence has been shifting from streets to universities. Rioters block roads and paralyze traffic, forcing schools to suspend classes. Mobs also attacked people who disagree with them, threw Molotov cocktails at train stations, banks and other public places. A man in his 70s was hit with a hard object at a recent mob clash and died on Thursday, becoming the first innocent civilian killed amid riots.

While Hong Kong society has been urged to take "ending riots" a top priority, the former secretary for security expects Lam's office to carry out more effective and decisive measures to end the riots.

Based on what she knows, Ip said some financial conglomerates have raised more and more complaints, as their target markets are mainly in the mainland and Greater Bay Area. "They could get through it, but small and medium-sized enterprises have been experiencing more difficulties," Ip said, noting that as a result, the HKSAR government is expected to become more active.

When the HKSAR government announced the Anti-mask Law, it did not cite a state of emergency, as some officials have concerns that declaring it would affect the city's linked exchange rate system, which would trigger a financial crisis, the lawmaker said.

"We've actually entered a state of emergency. If not, why would mainland students have to escape from our own land? I feel ashamed that we could not even protect our own compatriots, which is absurd," she added.

Citywide protests have also been spreading to financial districts at daytime. Some banks urged staff to be cautious and canceled meetings amid protests, media reported.

"As far as I know, there has been a growing fear among the mainland partners of some lawyers, consultants and accountants in Central Hong Kong. Some have left, and the status of the city as international business and financial center has already been jeopardized," Ip said, noting that the HKSAR government should act in a more decisive way.

"Without stability and security, the financial hub does not exist," she added.

Radical protesters are now turning universities into their new battleground and training camps to hone their combat skills against police, and many said the city is on the brink of a breakdown, as major universities have suspended classes, while foreign and mainland students leave.

Ip also believes that some rioters have been paid to damage public property. "It has nothing to do with political requests. It's either a paid job or just a video game for them, as they've been brainwashed," she said.

As district elections loom, if the situation goes out of control, Ip said it would be difficult to hold smooth elections.

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