The European Union has urged the Hong Kong government not to delay this Sunday’s district council elections, amid speculation about a possible postponement in the face of ongoing protests in the city.
The 28-country bloc also called for police action to remain “strictly proportionate” in and around Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where a tense stand-off between radical protesters and police was continuing.
The statement came in the form of a declaration by the European Commission’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on behalf of the EU.
“Every effort needs to be made to ensure that the district council elections on November 24 proceed as planned,” Mogherini said. “This will send an important signal about the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Basic Law,” she said, referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
An EU diplomatic source said there would be a “serious response” should the Hong Kong government delay the election.
“It should be borne in mind that tactics such as delayed elections are usually employed by countries far less developed than Hong Kong,” the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
Addressing the situation at Polytechnic University, in which the campus was besieged by police, the EU called on all sides to exercise restraint and engage in de-escalation efforts.
On early Tuesday, protesters were still standing guard at the entrance of the university. But hundreds of people were evacuated overnight from inside the campus after politicians and education figures helped to make a deal with the police.
“Actions by the law enforcement authorities must remain strictly proportionate, while fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly of Hongkongers, must be upheld,” the EU statement said.
The EU said it would support all those who would work towards de-escalation and establishing such a dialogue.
It said: “A comprehensive inquiry into the violence, use of force and the root causes of the protests is a critical element in de-escalation efforts.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged restraint from all sides and said the US was “gravely concerned by the deepening political unrest and violence in Hong Kong”.
“We have repeatedly called for restraint from all parties in Hong Kong,” he said. “Violence by any side is unacceptable. The Hong Kong government bears primary responsibility for bringing calm to Hong Kong.”
Pompeo said the Communist Party must honour its promises to the Hong Kong people and the Sino-British Joint Declaration – the document signed by the British and Chinese in 1984 which guaranteed a degree of autonomy for Hong Kong after its handover to China.
The Chinese diplomatic mission in the EU said China expressed strong opposition to the EU statement.
A spokesman said that the Hong Kong police were protecting the lives and property of the Hong Kong public, and that it was wrong for the EU to confuse the police enforcing law with “radical, violent behaviour”.
“We call on the European Union to stop making irresponsible and wrong remarks, and stop interfering in Hong Kong in any way,” the spokesman said.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: university campus stand-off between radicals and riot squad shows no sign of ending as thousands hit streets in bid to relieve police siege
- Hong Kong protests: riot squads surround university campus occupied by radicals after day of fierce clashes, shooting of officer with arrow and live round fired at car trying to ram police line
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