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Hong Kong government warns against foreign 'interference' after 157 arrested

Hong Kong government warns against foreign 'interference' after 157 arrested

Hong Kong - Over 150 people were arrested during mass protests in Hong Kong over the weekend, police said on Monday, as authorities warned foreign governments not to interfere in the semi-autonomous city's "internal affairs."

Anti-government protests have continued throughout the city despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam last week formally withdrawing the controversial extradition bill that had triggered the three-month-long crisis.

The bill would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.

Clashes between protesters and police escalated on Sunday night after tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched to the US consulate asking the US Congress to approve a bill containing punitive measures for officials found to have suppressed "basic freedoms" in Hong Kong.

The Lam administration "expresses regret" over the proposed bill, a government statement said.

"Foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of [Hong Kong]," the statement said.

Anti-government protesters have resorted to increasingly radical tactics in an attempt to pressure the Hong Kong government to meet their demands, which have grown to include electoral reforms and Lam's resignation.

Officers at a Monday press conference highlighted the disruption to public transportation, stating that Mong Kok subway station had been "under attack" for nine consecutive nights.

Police reported that more than one third of MTR stations had been vandalized and over 100 petrol bombs have been thrown in recent weeks.

The charges related to some 157 weekend arrests include unlawful assembly, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting police officers, and criminal damage - including setting fire to a busy subway exit in the city's financial centre.

Protesters have condemned what they see as excessive force by the police, including the use of tear gas in enclosed areas, non-lethal bullets at close range, and water cannons.

Police have also been accused of obstruction of the press and illegal strip searches.

Superintendent John Tse urged Hong Kong people to express themselves in a "peaceful and orderly" manner.

"We must bear in mind that with the intense and extensive violence used by protesters, everyone in society is a loser," he said.

"Protesters are resorting to weapons that are more and more offensive, and are in some cases deadly," another officer at the press conference said.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

It was promised special rights and privileges until 2047 under the "one country, two systems" agreement, but many residents feel this arrangement is increasingly under threat.

dpa