Foreign Ministry warns Israelis in Hong Kong to stay away from protests

Travelers and residents of city advised to watch for updates on disturbances, heed instructions of authorities, as strike descends into citywide mayhem

A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by riot police as they face off near the Legislative Council building and the Central Government building in Hong Kong, Monday, August 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
A protester throws a tear gas canister fired by riot police as they face off near the Legislative Council building and the Central Government building in Hong Kong, Monday, August 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

The Foreign Ministry on Monday warned Israelis in Hong Kong to avoid protests in the city, to watch for updates regarding the disturbances, and to heed the instructions of security personnel.

The ministry advised Israelis seeking service at the Hong Kong consulate to coordinate their visit with authorities, since the building is near Hong Kong government buildings that have been targeted by demonstrators.

A general strike in the city descended into widespread mayhem on Monday as defiant protesters started fires outside police stations and hurled bricks and eggs at officers. After disrupting traffic early in the day, they filled public parks and squares in several districts, refusing to disperse even as police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets from above.

Hong Kong is on “the verge of a very dangerous situation,” said Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who insisted that she has no plans to resign.

Protesters challenged law enforcement in at least eight districts, responding to continuous rounds of tear gas with practiced swiftness. They lobbed the canisters back at police and yelled invective. When police arrived, the protesters clacked their umbrellas together and pounded on metal street signs, daring the officers to move closer.

“Gangsters!” they jeered at the riot police. “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

In one neighborhood after nightfall, a band of men wielding wooden poles charged protesters from behind a thin road lane divider. The demonstrators fought back by throwing traffic cones, metal barricades and rods. Hong Kong media also reported a brawl in a different district where men with knives slashed at protesters.

The strike was the latest action in a summer of fiery demonstrations that began in response to proposed extradition legislation that would have allowed some suspects to be sent to mainland China for trials.

Riot police fire tear gas during a confrontation with protesters on Monday, August 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

While the government has since suspended the bill, protesters have pressed on with broader calls for it to be scrapped entirely, along with demands for democratic reforms including the dissolution of the current legislature and an investigation into alleged police brutality. In recent weeks, footage has shown police officers beating protesters and ignoring calls for help during a mob attack that left 44 injured in a commuter rail station.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under a framework of “one country, two systems,” which promised the city certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland. With the arrests of booksellers and activists in recent years, however, some Hong Kong residents feel that Beijing has been eroding their rights.

The Communist Party-led central government in Beijing has condemned what it calls violent and radical protesters who have vandalized the Chinese national emblem and more recently thrown the country’s flag into the iconic Victoria Harbour. China has accused unnamed “foreign forces” of inflaming the demonstrations out of a desire to contain the country’s development.

More than 400 protesters have been arrested since June 9, when a massive march drew more than 1 million people and launched the protest movement. Those being held, who range in age from 14 to 76, face charges including rioting, unlawful assembly, possessing offensive weapons and assaulting officers and obstructing police operations, said spokeswoman Yolanda Yu Hoi-kwan.

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