Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday it would be “extremely inappropriate” for the United States or any other foreign government to interfere in the city’s affairs.
The embattled leader’s warning was in response to a rally outside the U.S. consulate Sunday held by pro-democracy demonstrators calling for passage of a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress aimed at boosting their efforts.
The legislation would require Washington to annually assess the former British colony’s level of autonomy from Beijing and cancel its trading privileges if that autonomy is compromised.
Sunday’s rally evolved into yet another violent clash between protesters accused of vandalizing subway stations and blocking traffic, and riot police who responded by firing tear gas to force the protesters to disperse.
“The escalation and continuation of violence cannot solve the problems we face in Hong Kong,” Lam said Tuesday, further warning that it would only deepen the conflict.
The demonstrations began in June as a backlash against a proposed extradition bill, which would have permitted criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the ruling Communist Party. They have since evolved into renewed demands for Hong Kongers to choose their own leaders, establishing an independent investigation of police brutality against protesters, and the unconditional release and exoneration of detainees.
In a surprise announcement last week, Lam formally withdrew the extradition bill, which was also a key demand of the demonstrators. She suspended the bill as the protests escalated during the first month, but ignored calls to fully withdraw the measure.
But activists say the decision to withdraw the extradition bill was too little, too late.
In a speech at a monastery Sunday, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing urged the city’s political leaders to resolve the matter with students leading the pro-democracy protests, calling them the “masters of our future.”