The Latest: France presses for Hong Kong talks to end crisis
HONG KONG (AP) — The Latest on Hong Kong pro-democracy protests (all times local):
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has called on all sides, especially authorities in Hong Kong, to restart talks to end violence and bring a “peaceful outcome” to the crisis surrounding pro-democracy protests.
A statement Wednesday by Le Drian said Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle guarantee what is vital to the people of Hong Kong and economic prosperity.
He said that’s “the rule of law, the respect for human rights and fundamental liberties, and the autonomy of the judicial system.”
Le Drian said France is committed to full compliance with all of the principles and stressed that the country and its European partners are closely following the demonstrations.
Hong Kong police have fired tear gas at a group of pro-democracy protesters rallying outside a police station in a crowded urban neighborhood.
The protesters had gathered to burn “hell money” and incense as a way to show their opposition to the police during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival, when offerings are made to ward off spirits of ancestors.
Police armed with riot shields and batons marched down streets in the blue-collar Sham Shui Po neighborhood. Officers carried warning flags and fired tear gas as they advanced, but protesters had already scrambled away.
Last week, the district was the scene of a protest against police after they arrested a university student leader for buying laser pointers, which police said were being used as a weapon against them.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for a peaceful solution to the unrest in Hong Kong amid fears China could use force to quell pro-democracy protests.
Merkel told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday that “everything must be done to prevent violence and to find possibilities for a solution within the framework of dialogue.”
She said any dialogue should occur on the basis of the Hong Kong Basic Law of 1997, which guarantees residents a greater measure of freedoms than those in mainland China.
Merkel said rights including freedom of opinion and the rule of law “have a long tradition” in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways says it has fired two pilots, in an apparent response to their involvement in activity related to pro-democracy protests.
The airline said Wednesday that “two pilots have been terminated in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment contracts.”
It said one of the pilots is “currently involved in legal proceedings.”
The other one “misused company information.”
The airline provided no further details on either case but said earlier this week that one of its pilots was charged with rioting after being arrested during a protest.
The sackings come days after Cathay Pacific said it fired two ground staff for misconduct, amid pro-democracy protests that have convulsed Hong Kong for more than two months.
Hong Kong police say they arrested five people over violence involving pro-democracy protesters at the city’s international airport.
Spokesman Mak Chin-ho said Wednesday all of the men aged between 17 and 28 were arrested for illegal assembly. Two were also charged with assaulting a police officer and possessing offensive weapons.
He says additional suspects are expected to be arrested, including some who assaulted an officer Tuesday night as riot police sought to clear the terminal, prompting him to draw his sidearm.
Hong Kong law permits sentences of life imprisonment for those who commit violent acts or acts that might interfere with aviation safety at an airport.
Mak told reporters: “The police pledge to all citizens of Hong Kong that we will take steps to bring all culprits to justice.”
Protesters in Hong Kong are apologizing to the public after they disrupted flights for two consecutive days at one of the busiest airports in the world.
They also said Wednesday that they were sorry that some demonstrators became “easily agitated and overreacted.”
On two separate occasions at the airport Tuesday, protesters surrounded and held captive two men from mainland China whom they believed to be spies. One man is a reporter for the Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, and the identity of the other man remains unclear.
More than 300 flights were cancelled Tuesday and Monday out of the Hong Kong airport after thousands of pro-democracy protesters packed into the main terminal. Operations were returning to normal Wednesday.
Check-in counters have reopened at Hong Kong’s airport after being shut during protests the previous day.
About three dozen protesters remained camped out in the arrivals area Wednesday morning. Flights appeared to be operating normally.
The airport closed check-in for remaining flights late Tuesday afternoon as protesters swarmed the terminal and blocked access to immigration for departing passengers.
More than 100 flights were cancelled on the fifth consecutive day protesters occupied the airport. Airlines had still been trying to clear a backlog of more than 200 flights from Monday.
The airport disruptions escalated a summer of demonstrations aimed at what many Hong Kong residents see as an increasing erosion of the freedoms they were promised in 1997 when Communist Party-ruled mainland China took over what had been a British colony.