The Latest: Hong Kong reopens major tunnel closed by protest
HONG KONG (AP) — The Latest on protests in Hong Kong (all times local):
7:30 a.m. Wednesday
A major tunnel has reopened in Hong Kong after a two-week closure because of anti-government protests.
Vehicles were lining up at the toll booths Wednesday morning for the Cross-Harbour Tunnel linking Hong Kong Island with the rest of the city.
Protesters at nearby Hong Kong Polytechnic University had strewn tons of debris on the approach and set the toll booths on fire as part of a citywide effort to disrupt the morning commute.
It took several hundred workers about a week to repair damage and clean the area up.
The closure hit bus service to Hong Kong Island particularly hard. It also backed up traffic at the two other tunnels under Victoria Harbour.
President Donald Trump says he stands with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Trump told reporters Tuesday at the White House that is message is “We are with them.”
Trump cited his “very good relationship” with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that the U.S. was in the final stages of an important trade deal.
Congress recently passed a bill authorizing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses and mandate the State Department to annually review special trade status the U.S. grants Hong Kong.
Trump says he’s asked Xi not to use the military to stamp out the protests. China warns it will retaliate against the U.S. if Trump signs the bill.
So far Trump hasn’t signed the bill.
Faculty teams searching through Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University have found a young woman in weak condition and believe there aren’t likely to be any other anti-government protesters still hiding in the campus.
University Vice President Alexander Wai says there were no signs of any other protesters in an extensive search Tuesday. He said he can’t rule out the possibility that some may still be hiding in the vast campus, but that “the possibility is not very high.”
Protesters used the university as a base for clashes with police outside.
Wai said the female, who is over 18 and not a student at the university, has been given medical care and counselors are trying to coax her to surrender.
He said the university will jointly decide with police on the next step. If they decide there are no more protesters holding out, he said the campus will next be cleared of dangerous materials including explosives.
The head of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute says Hong Kong’s citizens spoke “loudly and clearly” in Sunday’s local elections and the government must respond to prevent pro-democracy protests from sliding back into an abyss.
Derek Mitchell, a former U.S. envoy to Myanmar, says the polls were seen as a referendum for reforms and offered a window of opportunity for the government to resolve the months-long crisis peacefully.
Mitchell said in a speech Tuesday that “if the opportunity is not seized or done inadequately, the people will speak again and it leads to, I think, a dead end for the territory, so really the ball is in the court of the government here and authorities in Beijing.”
He called for a halt to violence on both sides of the divide. Mitchell also denied accusations that the National Democratic Institute has funded or supported the protesters, saying the movement stemmed from “genuine grievances.”
Faculty teams searching the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have so far found no protesters remaining in four of the facility’s main buildings and are searching the remainder.
The university’s campus has been under siege by police for more than 10 days after it was taken over by pro-democracy protesters and students.
A statement issued by the university Tuesday says six teams of faculty members are searching the buildings, thought to number about 20.
It says the search so far has found every floor to have been vandalized, with “dangerous goods” and Molotov cocktails lying around.
China’s state media are continuing their attacks on newly elected pro-democracy district councilors in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition won a stunning landslide victory in local elections on Sunday in a clear rebuke to city leader Carrie Lam over her handling of violent protests that have divided the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
CCTV anchorwoman Liu Xin wrote in a commentary on the state broadcaster’s website that the election had “not been a fair game,” and that “pro-establishment candidates and their supporters faced widespread harassment and intimidation.”
Voters backing Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration, who were mostly older, also “experienced great obstacles and even verbal abuse from opposition candidates,” according to Liu, adding that the election results “will create negative consequences for Hong Kong, at least in the near term.”
The English-language newspaper China Daily said the election of opposition candidates would ensure that Hong Kong would “see no peace ... and continue to lose its importance as an international financial and logistics center.”
China has again summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad to demand the Trump administration block legislation passed by both chambers of Congress supporting pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
The foreign ministry said Vice Minister Zheng Zeguang on Monday expressed China’s strong opposition to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and warned that the U.S. would “bear all the consequences that arise.”
It was the second time in recent weeks that China has summoned Branstad to protest over the legislation, which was passed nearly unanimously and now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.
Trump on Friday wouldn’t commit to signing the bill as he tries to work out a trade deal with China. He has 10 days from the time of passage last week to veto it. If he does not do so, it automatically becomes law, while Congress could also override a veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses.
The bill authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses and would mandate the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status that the U.S. grants Hong Kong on trade.
Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has refused to offer any concessions to anti-government protesters despite a local election setback.
Lam says she will accelerate dialogue and plans to set up a committee to review deep-seated social issues that contributed to grievances.
She at her weekly news conference Tuesday that the central government in Beijing didn’t blame her for poll outcome, in which pro-democracy bloc won a landslide victory with 90 percent of seats.
She said Sunday’s election may have reflected unhappiness with the government but it also showed that many people want a stop to violence.