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Hong Kong Leader Open to Dialogue, Vows to 'Stamp Out' Violence

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Listens to reporters' questions during a press conference in Hong Kong Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday she is open to dialogue with protesters, but that the government will not tolerate violence.

"If violence continues, the only thing that we should do is to stamp out that violence through law enforcement actions," Lam said.

She said it would be inappropriate for the government to accept the demands of protesters who resort to violence and harassment.

"We want to put an end to the chaotic situation in Hong Kong through law enforcement," Lam said. "At the same time, we will not give up on building a platform for dialogue."

Lam has made few public comments through several months of demonstrations that began with a call for stopping an extradition bill and expanded to include demands for full democracy.

Protesters have plans to continue the demonstrations, which represent the biggest threat to peace in the Asian finance center since Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China in 1997. The protesters say they are demonstrating against what they see as an erosion of rights under the "one country, two systems" arrangement under which Beijing assumed control of the territory.

Students and others gather during a demonstration at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong, Aug. 22, 2019.
Students and others gather during a demonstration at Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong, Aug. 22, 2019.

Police arrested more than 80 people during protests Saturday and Sunday that included clashes with officers.

The police blamed protesters for "escalating and illegal violent acts," while a group of pro-democracy lawmakers said it was police actions that were "totally unnecessary."

Lawmaker Andrew Wan said police had provoked protesters to occupy a road already blocked by officers, and that government and police actions during the weeks of protests have caused a "hatred among the people."

"I think the ultimate responsibility should be on the police side. That is what I observed," Wan said at a Monday news conference.

The vast majority of the thousands of protesters marched peacefully Sunday, but police at times fired bursts of tear gas at wildcat demonstrators who broke away from the largest groups. Officers also used water cannons for the first time in responding to protesters.

Some of the protesters threw bricks at police, attacked them with sticks and rods and sprayed detergent on streets to make it slippery for police.

In France, leaders of the Group of Seven countries meeting in Biarritz backed Hong Kong's autonomy and called for "avoiding violence."

"The G-7 reaffirms the existence and the importance of the 1984 Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong," according to a joint statement, referring to a deal between Britain and China that calls for Hong Kong to be part of China, but autonomous.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters that the leaders of the G-7 all expressed "deep concern" about the situation in Hong Kong.