Hong Kong government is exacerbating unrest, former British governor says

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Chaos at Hong Kong’s international airport | Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

City’s refusal to cede ground ‘probably provokes more violence,’ says Chris Patten.

The Hong Kong government’s refusal to make any concessions to protestors is exacerbating violence on the ground, Chris Patten, Britain’s last governor of Hong Kong, said Tuesday.

It was “very difficult to understand” why Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam has not explicitly withdrawn the extradition bill that sparked mass protests, or launched a commission of inquiry into the methods used by police to control the crowds, Patten told the BBC’s “Today” Program.

“I assume they haven’t been allowed to do this by Beijing,” Patten said, adding: “I can’t believe that any rational person in Carrie Lam’s position would actually argue the case against a commission of inquiry.”

Patten’s comments come as thousands of protesters stage a sit-in at Hong Kong’s international airport for the second day in a row, causing hundreds of flights to be suspended, and after rights organizations condemned violent tactics used by police during clashes with protesters over the weekend.

Hong Kong clearly needs a “process of reconciliation,” said Patten, calling China’s warning it could use “other methods” to clamp down on protesters counterproductive.

Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, on Tuesday urged protesters not to push Hong Kong into an “abyss,” saying violence could send the city “down a path of no return,” the BBC reported.

Patten also called on U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge Washington to publicly support the idea that Chinese intervention in Hong Kong would be a “catastrophe.”

The office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday it has reviewed “credible evidence of law enforcement officials employing less-lethal weapons in ways that are prohibited by international norms and standards.” In a statement, it urged the authorities to “investigate these incidents immediately” and called on the government to “act with restraint.”

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