HONG KONG: The Hong Kong government condemned on Friday an attack by a “violent mob” on the city’s justice secretary in London, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister during months of often violent protests.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful”.
A statement by the Hong Kong government said Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” but gave no details. Video footage of the incident showed Cheng falling to the ground.
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said in a statement she strongly condemned what she described as an attack on Cheng.
The Hong Kong government said in a separate statement: “The secretary denounces all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals, which would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilized society.”
The incident came amid escalating violence in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where a student protester died earlier this month after falling from a parking lot during demonstrations.
A 70-year-old street cleaner, who videos on social media showed had been hit in the head by a brick thrown by “masked rioters”, died on Thursday, authorities said.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department expressed profound sadness on Friday at the death of its cleaning worker and said it was providing assistance to his family.
Anti-government protesters paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for a fifth day on Friday, forcing schools to close and blocking some highways as students built barricades in university campuses and authorities struggled to tame the violence.
Protesters used barriers and other debris to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to Kowloon district, leading to severe traffic congestion. The government once again urged employers to adopt flexible working arrangements amid the chaos.
Thousands of students remain hunkered down at several universities, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, catapults and other homemade weapons.
Police said the prestigious Chinese University had “become a manufacturing base for petrol bombs” and the students’ actions were “another step closer to terrorism”.
Around 4,000 people, aged between 12 and 83, have been arrested since the unrest escalated in June.
The demonstrations have paralyzed parts of the city and battered the retail and tourism sectors, with widespread disruptions across the financial center and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism.