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Hong Kong leader says violence will push city 'down path of no return', rule of law damaged

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that "lawbreaking activites in the name of freedom" were damaging the rule of law and that the Asian financial hub's recovery from anti-government protests could take a long time.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that "lawbreaking activites in the name of freedom" were damaging the rule of law and that the Asian financial hub's recovery from anti-government protests could take a long time.

Violence during protests in Hong Kong will also push the city "down a path of no return", Ms Lam warned on Tuesday during a press conference.

"Violence, no matter if it's using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation," she said.

"The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation," she added.

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Ms Lam faced combative questioning from reporters who repeatedly interrupted her as she defended the conduct of the city's police after a weekend of often violent confrontations between them and protesters.

She said police faced "extremely difficult circumstances" and were bound by "rigid and stringent guidelines on the appropriate use of force".

And she dodged a question on whether she had the power to end the crisis by granting one of the key demands of the protesters: to fully withdraw a now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Pressed on whether her hands were tied by Beijing on the issue, she demurred, insisting the question had been answered in the past.

"I again ask everyone to put aside your differences and calm down."

"Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss?" Ms Lam added, appearing on the verge of tears.

Her comments come after China said the anti-government protests that have swept the city over the past two months had begun to show "sprouts of terrorism".

Earlier on Tuesday morning, flights resumed at the Hong Kong airport, one day after a massive pro-democracy rally there forced the shutdown of the busy international transport hub.

Meanwhile, in financial markets, Hong Kong shares sank more than one per cent at the open on Tuesday following heavy losses on Wall Street. The Hang Seng Index fell 1.12 per cent, or 288.10 points, to 25,536.62 at the open.

AFP, REUTERS