Mong Kok riot

Hong Kong New Year fireworks will not be cancelled: Chief Executive CY Leung condemns Mong Kok protesters, supports police tactics

Hong Kong’s leader and senior government figures come out in support of police tactics, accuse rioters of engaging in an ‘organised crime’ and refuse to cancel the biggest fireworks event of the year after a night of rioting and violence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2016, 12:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 February, 2016, 1:51pm

Hong Kong’s leader stood by the police handling of the street hawker protest in Mong Kok, saying the use of warning gunshots showed the force’s “maximum restraint”.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying condemned the act but said there was no plan of cancelling tonight’s firework display, possibly another venue for chaos, as he attended a press conference alongside Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok.

READ MORE: Hong Kong street hawker protest becomes riot: chaos on streets of Mong Kok as police fire warning shots, use pepper spray as crowd attacks with bricks and bottles

Asked if the police were justified in firing warning shots, Leung said rioters attacked policemen who were already injured and lying on the ground, which was shown in TV footage.

“Any big city facing a similar nature of events would classify it as a riot, not just for the government but society as a whole.”

“A few hundred mobs attacked police officers and the media in Mong Kok,” he said.

Asked why the government classified it as a riot, he said: “Any big city facing a similar nature of events would classify it as a riot, not just for the government but society as a whole.”

“The police exercised maximum restraint” when compared with other western countries, he added.

Asked how he would assess the causes behind the escalated tension on the streets, Leung told reporters to seek comments from the protest organisers.

READ MORE: Explained: who are Hong Kong Indigenous and what was their role in the Mong Kok protest and riot?

Chairman of the Panel on Security Ip Kwok-him also condemned the incidents during a radio programme on Tuesday morning, and said the police decision to open fire was “appropriate” given the critical circumstances.

“This incident must be condemned ... the damage it has caused to Hong Kong can not be ignored,” Ip said.

As for the two “warning shots” fired by police early morning, Ip said this temporarily held back the mob assaults and bought police more time to control the situation, so he thought it was appropriate.

“I get the feeling it was an organised crime,” Ip said after he watched video clips from the scene.

“It couldn’t be an accidental incident,” he said.

HKU student union president Billy Fung Jing-en, who witnessed the incident in Mong Kok on Monday night, told a radio programme on Tuesday morning that two Hong Kong University students were arrested.