Lawmakers on Each Side Blame the Other in Hong Kong Protests - NBC4 Washington
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Lawmakers on Each Side Blame the Other in Hong Kong Protests

Police used tear gas to clear the streets and arrested more than 80 people

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    Pro-democracy protesters gather in the lobby of the Revenue Department in Hong Kong on Aug.26, 2019, in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law that has since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city. Hong Kong police said they were forced to fire a water cannon and a warning shot to fend off "extremely violent" demonstrators, following another weekend of clashes at pro-democracy rallies.

    Lawmakers on each side of Hong Kong's political divide said Monday the other side bears responsibility after violence during anti-government protests over the weekend.

    Pro-government members of the Legislative Council condemned the acts of protesters who blocked streets, threw gasoline bombs and assaulted police officers.

    "You can say a lot of different opinions to the government," said Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. "But violence is different. If we can accept violence, our city will be ruined."

    Pro-democracy legislators countered that the government and the police need to take responsibility, the former for introducing extradition legislation that sparked the protests and the latter for what they say is selective enforcement of the law targeting government opponents.

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    Kwok Ka-ki, a member of the Civic Party, blamed Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. He called her creation of a platform for dialogue a delaying tactic rather than an attempt to resolve the conflict.

    "She is the one who should shoulder all the responsibility, and now she is trying to get away from all the responsibility and shifting the focus to the so- called platform."

    A hard-line contingent took over streets on Saturday and Sunday following peaceful pro-democracy marches. They argue that peaceful protest is not enough to get the government to respond. Police used tear gas to clear the streets and arrested more than 80 people.

    The movement has five demands including democratic elections and an independent inquiry into what it alleges is police violence in breaking up demonstrations.

    The protests started with the now-suspended extradition bill, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China to face trial, and has expanded to encompass a general concern that China is chipping away at the rights of Hong Kong residents.

    Hong Kong's leader is chosen by a 1,200-member committee dominated by supporters of the central government in Beijing. About half of the legislature is elected by the public, while the other half represents various professions and groups such as lawyers and accountants.

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    Assistant Police Commissioner Mak Chin-ho called the actions of the hard-line protesters reckless and a grave threat to public safety. He said that 21 officers were injured on Sunday.

    "The police have zero tolerance for violent acts," he said. He asked citizens to ask themselves: "Is this the Hong Kong you would like to see?"

    Associated Press videojournalists Johnson Lai and Alice Fung contributed to this story.