HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Hong Kong government on Thursday set the rules for an open dialogue between leader Carrie Lam and the public next week, telling those taking part to be “orderly” and not bring along loudhailers, bunting or umbrellas.
Next Thursday’s talks in the Chinese-ruled city, the scene of more than three months of sometimes violent anti-government protests, will be open to 150 people who must apply online.
“The session will be an open-dialogue platform aimed at reaching out to the public to invite people from all walks of life to express their views to the government, so as to fathom the discontent in society and to look for solutions,” the government said in a statement.
Lam promised to hold the talks to try to end the disruptions in the Asian financial hub.
“To ensure the safety of others, participants should behave in an orderly manner,” the government said.
“...Participants should not bring any materials which the organiser considers possible to disrupt the event or cause nuisance, inconvenience or danger to other parties.”
Such items included “loudhailers/sound amplifiers, umbrellas, defensive equipment (such as mask respirators and helmets), flags, banners, buntings, any plastic, glass, metal bottles or containers, bottled or canned drinks, etc.,” it said.
Protesters, many of them masked and using umbrellas to hide behind and defend themselves again water cannon, have caused havoc around the city in recent weeks, throwing petrol bombs at police, storming the Legislative Council, trashing metro stations and lighting fires on the streets.
Police have responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that ensures freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including right of assembly and an independent judiciary.
Demonstrators are angry about what they see as creeping interference by Beijing, despite the promise of autonomy and the protests have broadened into calls for universal suffrage.
China says it is committed to the “one country, two systems” arrangement and denies interfering. It has accused foreign powers, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting the unrest and told them to mind their own business.
Hong Kong’s Jockey Club cancelled Wednesday’s races after protesters said they would target the Happy Valley racecourse where a horse part-owned by a pro-China lawmaker was due to run.
The lawmaker, Junius Ho, who once described the protesters as “black-shirted thugs”, on Thursday pulled the horse, “Hong Kong Bet”, from all races until the protests are over.
Ho said the horse should not be “deprived of its right to race”.
“We speak of human rights every day and animals have their basic rights too,” he said.
Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Clarence Fernandez