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story.lead_photo.caption Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, talks during a press conference at the government building in Hong Kong Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019.

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday renewed an appeal to pro-democracy demonstrators to halt violence and engage in dialogue.

The government promised last week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked three months of demonstrations, but the decision didn't placate protesters, whose demands also include democratic measures and police accountability. Protesters vandalized subway stations, set street fires and blocked traffic over the weekend, leading police to fire tear gas.

Lam said the escalation of violence, in which more than 150 people have been detained in clashes since Friday, will deepen rifts and prolong the road to recovery.

She said her decision to formally withdraw the extradition bill and her other initiatives reflected her sincerity to heal society and restore peace.

"We are gearing up to go into the community to have that dialogue directly with the people, but I make a further appeal here, that the first priority in order to achieve the objective of bringing peace and order to Hong Kong is for all of us, all people of Hong Kong, to say no to violence," she said at a news conference.

Many see the extradition bill, which would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China for trial, as an example of the city's eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.

Beijing has criticized the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China and has said the movement is backed by hostile foreigners.

On Tuesday, China rebuked Germany for allowing prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong to visit "to engage in anti-China separatist activities."

Wong met Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin late Monday at an event hosted by the German newspaper Bild.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Maas' "political show" with Wong displayed disrespect to China's sovereignty and was an interference in its internal affairs. She urged Germany to avoid sending the wrong signal to "radical, separatist forces in Hong Kong" and said any efforts to solicit foreign support to split the country are "doomed to fail."

In response, Wong tweeted that China's strong reaction was "baffling."

Wong, a leader of Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy movement, was charged last month with inciting people to join a protest in June. His prosecution came after his release from prison in June after a two-month sentence related to the 2014 protests.

Lam also reiterated Tuesday that attempts by foreign nations to interfere in Hong Kong's internal affairs over freedom and civil liberties were "totally unnecessary."

She said the government has the "obligation and duties" to safeguard the city's autonomy.

But even as Lam called for dialogue, thousands of soccer fans at Hong Kong's stadium booed loudly and turned their backs when the Chinese national anthem was played before a World Cup qualifier match against Iran on Tuesday.

The crowd broke into the song "Glory to Hong Kong," which reflects their campaign for more democratic freedoms.

After the match started, fans chanted "Fight for freedom" and "Revolution of our Times." One person carried a blue poster that read, "Hong Kong is not China."

Security at Hong Kong Stadium was tight, with fans frisked in an attempt to ensure they did not carry in political materials and other prohibited items.

"Hong Kong people are united. We will speak up for freedom and democracy," one of the spectators, Leo Fan, said as members of the crowd continued to chant slogans and sing protest songs as they left the stadium after the game.

Information for this article was contributed by Liu Zheng of The Associated Press.

Photo by AP/VINCENT YU
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam called for an end to violence Tuesday at a news conference in the city.

A Section on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: Hong Kong leader renews call for talks

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