HONG KONG/WASHINGTON – The United States on Monday condemned “unjustified use of deadly force” in the latest Hong Kong violence and urged police and civilians alike to de-escalate the situation, a senior Trump administration official said.
In a separate statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus urged Beijing to honor commitments that “Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that the people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.”
The U.S. statements came as Hong Kong riot police fired tear gas at a university campus on Tuesday, a day after a protester was shot and a man set on fire in some of worst violence to rock the Chinese-ruled city in more than five months of anti-government demonstrations.
“Hong Kong police and civilians alike have a responsibility to de-escalate and avoid violent confrontations,” the U.S. administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, after a weekend of stepped-up clashes in pro-democracy protests across the Chinese-ruled territory, a former British colony.
On Tuesday, some railway services were suspended and roads closed across the Asian financial hub for a second day, with long traffic jams building in the morning rush hour.
Riot police were deployed at metro stations across the territory and large queues were forming at railway platforms as commuters made their way to work.
Universities and schools cancelled classes, with students, teachers and parents on edge a day after police fired tear gas and students hurled petrol bombs on some campuses.
More than 260 people were arrested on Monday, police said, bringing the total number to more than 3,000 since the protests escalated in June.
The metro station at Sai Wan Ho on eastern Hong Kong island, where a 21-year-old protester was shot on Monday, was among those closed.
A water cannon truck was stationed outside government headquarters, where the city’s Executive Council was due to hold its weekly meeting.
Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam said on Monday the violence in the former British colony has exceeded protesters’ demands for democracy and demonstrators were now the enemy of the people.
Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries for stirring up trouble.
Ortagus said the United States was watching the situation in Hong Kong with “grave concern” and condemned violence on all sides.
“The United States urges the Hong Kong government to build on its dialogue with the Hong Kong public and begin efforts to address the underlying concerns driving the protests. We also urge the protesters to respond to efforts at dialogue,” she said.