Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it is “wishful thinking” to believe the government will yield to protesters’ demands amid escalating violence, calling demonstrators the “enemy of the people.”

Meeting the press on Monday night, the embattled leader appealed for calm after a long day of unrest which left several injured. “These violent activities and disturbances have caused major consequences for almost everyone in Hong Kong,” she said.

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Protesters attempted to disrupt the morning commute as part of a plan to mobilise a mass general strike. They urged students to boycott classes, business owners to close shops and employees to skip work, in keeping with the city’s 24 weeks of civil resistance calling for democracy and accountability for the police handling of the ongoing crisis.

On Monday morning, one black-clad protester was shot by a police officer in Sai Wan Ho, whilst a man was set on fire by demonstrators in Ma On Shan.

“[I]f there is still any wishful thinking that by escalating violence the Hong Kong SAR Government will yield to pressure to satisfy the so-called political demands, I’m making this statement clear and loud here: That will not happen,” Lam said.

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Mong Kok. Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

“Violence is not going to give us any solution to the problems that Hong Kong is facing. Our joint priority now as a city is to end the violence and to return Hong Kong to normal as soon as possible,” she added.

Setting a defiant tone, Lam said in her Chinese-language remarks that the protesters’ violent acts have made them “enemies of the people,” and put the city on a “path of no return.”

She said that the incident of a man being set on fire was “very malicious” and a “totally inhumane act,” though she shied away from giving her assessment on the shooting of the unarmed protester.

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She also urged the public to beware of “malicious rumours” and that her administration would put out clarifications. Her words came after rampant rumours on social media about possible fatalities of protesters, which had not been independently verified.

‘New low’

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said that she was “saddened” to see the scenes of violence against unarmed protesters.

“The people of Hong Kong are seeking dialogue and democracy, not beatings and bullets,” she wrote on Twitter. “[I] hope that Taiwan can continue to serve as a beacon of democracy for those who seek freedom.”

Baroness Natalie Bennett, who has previously called on the UK to defend human rights in Hong Kong, said that the actions of the police were a “clear breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration which made Hong Kong’s handover possible.

“The behaviour of the Hong Kong Police Force today marks a new low,” she said. “The Hong Kong government are complicit because they are refusing to call an independent inquiry. The UK must consider targeted sanctions in response.”

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Photo: KH/United Social Press.

Her words were echoed by Man-Kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, who also said police behaviour hit a “shocking low.”

“The live rounds fired by police are clear evidence of reckless use of force. Another policeman was seen driving at high speed into a group of protesters on a motorbike. These are not policing measures – these are officers out of control with a mindset of retaliation,” Tam said.

Tam called for the officer who fired the live rounds to be suspended, and for an independent investigation into the force’s behaviour.

“These behaviours call their training in question and the commands they have been given – officers should be deployed to de-escalate difficult crowd control situations, not make them worse,” he added.

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