HONG KONG: Only Chief Executive Carrie Lam can order for a curfew to be imposed, said the Hong Kong Police Force on Thursday (Nov 14) after Chinese state media quickly deleted a tweet saying the city's government had plans for one.
China's Global Times, citing unidentified sources, had put out the news earlier on Thursday that Hong Kong's government was to announce a weekend curfew, but the post was deleted little over half an hour later.
"#HKSAR government is expected to announce curfew for weekend," the paper said in a post in English on its verified Twitter account.
The editor of the Global Times, Hu Xijin, later tweeted that he had asked for it to be deleted because the sourcing was "not sufficient".
"I just checked how the information was obtained. My conclusion is that the information is not sufficient to support this exclusive news," Hu tweeted shortly after the original tweet was removed.
In a press conference later that day, Hong Kong Police spokesman John Tse said: "We are aware of the relevant report circulating online before the press conference. But I noticed the media company already rebuked this false report. The authority to direct the curfew order rests with the CE (Chief Executive), that's why I think the police is not in the position to comment.
"The force is certainly capable and determined to control the Hong Kong's social unrest at the moment. We welcome any new measures that can help us achieve the goal of restoring public safety and order in Hong Kong," he added.
With the protesters showing no signs of relenting, the nearly 30,000-strong police force also announced it was drafting in 100 prison guards and looking for other reinforcements.
Tse said the police would welcome assistance from other "disciplined services forces" or "any measures to boost our manpower".
Hong Kong has entered its sixth month of protests, which have morphed from mass rallies into a "blossom everywhere" campaign of debilitating disruption by groups of black-clad mainly student demonstrators.
The government said nearly 70 people were hospitalised on Wednesday - two in a critical condition, including a 70-year-old man hit by a brick as he tried to clear a roadblock.
Tse said 224 people had been arrested since Wednesday for various offences.
On Thursday, key arterial roads were clogged by brick and bamboo barricades, a major cross-harbour tunnel was closed while metro stations and bus services were shut down, as travel chaos gripped the city of 7.5 million people.
Schools and universities were shuttered and hospitals deferred non-emergency operations, with the government urging employers to be flexible with workers trapped in the gridlock.
Protests began in June as a kickback against an attempt by the city's Beijing-backed government to hustle through an extradition Bill.
The bill was eventually shelved but demonstrations have snowballed into a wider demand for democracy by protesters angry about what they see as meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula put in place when the territory returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
"TIME TO WAKE UP"
But violence has escalated in recent days, with police shooting and wounding one protester at close range and one man described as a "rioter" dousing a man with petrol before setting him on fire for allegedly holding pro-government views.
Tse called on the Hong Kong people not to help the protesters, saying that no civilised society should tolerate deadly levels of violence regardless of their political views.
"It's time to wake up ... You cannot fight for freedom of speech by silencing people who disagree with you. You cannot fight for democracy by terrorising the public to force others to support you. You cannot condemn brutality by brutalising people who hold different views to yours," he said.
"If you still refuse to cut ties with rioters, if you are still looking for excuses to defend rioters, you are indeed an accomplice."
Anger has grown in Hong Kong about what many see as police brutality as the protests intensified. Police deny brutality and say they have shown restraint in the face of potentially deadly attacks.
"If people point their fingers at the police and play the blame game, accusing of provoking violence in universities and causing social unrest, we have stressed repeatedly that police officers are in a reactive mode," said Tse.
"If rioters did not commit dangerous and destructive acts, there is no reason for police to respond with force."
China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.
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