Protesters in Hong Kong decry government's 'empty rhetoric'
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong protesters held an inaugural "People's Press Conference" on Tuesday to condemn what they called the government's "empty rhetoric" and instances of alleged police abuse.
Three protesters who spoke to reporters said the briefing was intended to counter the regular government and police news conferences in which authorities have repeatedly decried violent acts by some pro-democracy demonstrators.
Some officers have shown "total lack of self-discipline," said an activist using the pseudonym Jerry Chan, who added that some tear gas was fired on residential buildings during clashes across several districts Monday.
Many rally participants have chosen to hide their identities because they fear official retribution.
Hong Kong has seen a string of demonstrations that began in June against proposed extradition legislation that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. While the government has since suspended the bill, protesters have pressed on with broader calls for democratic reforms, an investigation into the police brutality allegations and for the city's leader to step down.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of "one country, two systems," which promised the city certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the Communist Party-ruled mainland. But some Hong Kong residents feel that Beijing has been increasingly encroaching on their freedoms.
At their news conference, the protesters apologized for the inconveniences brought on by a general strike Monday that paralyzed regular workday operations in the city. Major roads and public transit lines were blocked, while at least 77 flights out of the airport were cancelled.
Protesters challenged law enforcement in at least eight districts Monday, responding to continuous rounds of tear gas with practiced swiftness. Some started fires outside police stations and hurled bricks and eggs at officers.
Comments from Chinese officials and a publicity video for the Hong Kong-stationed Chinese army troops have fueled speculation that the Communist Party's military will be sent to quell protesters.
Chan said Tuesday that he hopes Hong Kong residents will carefully consider how to respond if the army does intervene.
"I believe the protesters and Hong Kong citizens will 'be water' and know what to do," he said, referring to the protesters' philosophy of taking a fluid approach to their demonstrations.
The three protesters organized their briefing through LIHKG, an online forum that has been vital to the movement. They emphasized that they cannot represent all demonstrators, but instead hope to provide a platform to respond to what they say are "rumors" spread by the government.