HONG KONG (AP) — China accused the U.N. high commissioner for human rights of emboldening “radical violence” in Hong Kong by suggesting the city’s leader conduct an investigation into reports of excessive use of force by police.
The back and forth came ahead of three marches on Sunday in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The U.N. commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, wrote in an opinion piece Saturday in the South China Morning Post that Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s government must prioritize “meaningful, inclusive” dialogue to resolve the crisis.
She urged Lam to hold an “independent and impartial judge-led investigation” into police conduct of protests. It has been one of key demands of pro-democracy demonstrations that have roiled the territory since June.
China’s U.N. mission in Geneva said that Bachelet’s article interferes in the internal affairs of China and exerts pressure on the city’s government and police, which “will only embolden the rioters to conduct more severe radical violence.”
It said Bachelet made “inappropriate comments” on the situation in Hong Kong and that the Chinese side had lodged a strong protest in response.
Since the unrest broke, protesters have disrupted traffic, smashed public facilities and pro-China shops, and hurled gasoline bombs in pitched battles with riot police who have responded with volleys of tear gas and water cannons.
The occupation of several universities by protesters earlier this month after fiery clashes with police capped one of the most violent chapters in the turmoil, which has contributed to the city’s first recession in a decade.
On Sunday morning, about 200 people marched chanting “No more tear gas” outside government headquarters.
They leaned a pole with an American flag that flapped in the wind over a high metal gate, while the Chinese and Hong Kong flags flew on tall poles in front of the entrance.
A second march will head to the American Consulate to thank the U.S. for approving legislation aimed at holding Hong Kong and Chinese officials accountable for any human rights abuses in the semi-autonomous territory.
Another march has been called in the Tsim Sha Tsui district near Polytechnic University, the site of the last fierce clashes with police two weeks ago.
The city has a period of relative calm since then, though police skirmished with some protesters near Prince Edward subway station on Saturday night.
Lam has appealed for the current calm to continue but refused to bow to protesters’ demands, which include free elections for her post and the legislature as well as an independent probe into police conduct.
Hong Kong police have arrested 5,890 people as a result of the protests.
On Saturday, hundreds of silver-haired activists joined young protesters for a unity rally, vowing that their movement will not fade away until there is greater democracy.
The rally at a park downtown was among several peaceful gatherings by protesters this week to keep up pressure on the government following a local election victory by the pro-democracy bloc and the gaining of U.S. support for their cause.
“The government is still stubborn. Every one of us, young and old, must contribute in our own way. The movement will not stop,” said a 63-year-old woman who identified herself as Mrs. Tam.
Some protesters returned to the streets Saturday night, using metal fences, cartons and bricks to block traffic in the Mongkok area in Kowloon. Dozens had gathered there to mark three months since police stormed a subway car in Prince Edward station and hit passengers with batons and pepper spray. Most left after police reportedly fired pepper balls and issued warnings.
Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report.