For first time, US calls on two sides to cool it

Top News | Jane Cheung and Reuters 13 Nov 2019

The United States condemned the "unjustified use of deadly force" in the latest round of violence in Hong Kong and for the first time urged police and civilians alike to de-escalate the situation.

This came after a 21-year-old student was shot by a traffic cop with a live round at point-blank range and a man, who argued with protesters, was set on fire on Monday.

"Hong Kong police and civilians alike have a responsibility to de-escalate and avoid violent confrontations," an anonymous senior US administration official said.

This is the first time during the unrest that the United States urged both police and civilians to cool down, which is a change of stance from considering the protests to be generally peaceful.

In a separate statement, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus urged Beijing to honor the commitment that Hong Kong will "enjoy a high degree of autonomy" and that the people of the SAR will "enjoy human rights and the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly."

Ortagus said the United States is watching the situation with "grave concern."

"We condemn violence on all sides, extend our sympathies to victims of violence regardless of their political inclinations, and call for all parties to exercise restraint," she said, as she repeated US President Donald Trump's call for a humane resolution to the protests.

"The increased polarization within society underscores the need for a broad-based and sincere dialogue between the government, protesters, and citizenry at large," Ortagus said.

She urged the Hong Kong government to start dialogue with citizens to address the concerns driving protests and for protesters to respond to efforts at dialogue.

"The US believes that Hong Kong's autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law, and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under US law, as well as to the success of one country, two systems and Hong Kong's future stability and property," she said.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited Trump as saying he wants the central government to treat protesters in Hong Kong humanely.

The British government yesterday said it is "seriously concerned by the ongoing violence and the escalation between protesters and police."

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