clash between police and protesters outside of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building a “riot,” the city’s chief of police has stepped back that characterization, explaining that he was referring only to specific individuals who engaged in violent behavior.fter calling last Wednesday’s
The protest on June 12th saw tens of thousands of Hongkongers surrounding the parliament building in order to stop the second reading of a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
In the afternoon, the protest turned ugly with police using tear gas, batons, and even rubber bullets to clear the area of demonstrators. Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo said that protesters had started things off by throwing bricks and wielding sharpened metal poles against his officers, calling what happened a “riot.”
At a press conference on Monday, Lo struck a different tone, clarifying that he had only been referring to specific individuals who had broken anti-rioting laws with their actions. He said that out of 32 people arrested since last Wednesday, only five were being accused of riot-related crimes.
“Peaceful demonstrators do not have to worry about riot charges as long as they did not commit violence,” Lo said.
However, Lo did not apologize to those peaceful demonstrators who were hurt by police on Wednesday, declaring that it was a “rioting situation” and police had used “appropriate force” to stop it.
However, many Hongkongers believe that police use of force was far from appropriate, asking why 150 tear gas canisters were fired to bring down only five rioters, and calling for Lo’s resignation.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam followed Lo’s example at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
After saying last week that the June 12th demonstrations had descended into a “blatant, organized riot,” Lam instead characterized protestors as “people who love Hong Kong” who took part in public processions in a “peaceful and rational manner.”
As for why she had described last Wednesday’s clashes as a “riot,” she claimed that she had been merely using the description given by police. “Who would have the authority to judge what has happened? Not me as the chief executive,” she said.