Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Hong Kong Police have banned protests that were planned for this weekend, an unprecedented move that some fear could push the city "into the abyss."
The police decision is the first time authorities have rejected a request for a march or rally by the Civil Human Rights Front. Police cited "serious injuries" among protesters, journalists, officers and bystanders in nearly two dozen rallies in Hong Kong since June.
"Protesters not only resort to violent acts, arson and road blockades, but also use petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, lances, rods and other self-made weapons to vandalize public facilities on a large scale, committing a breach of the peace and leading to the injuries of others," police told the Civil Human Rights Front in a letter.
The ban includes a march marking the fifth anniversary of a restrictive electoral reform package that was later rejected by Hong Kong. A march to Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong was also refused.
Protesters are calling for an independent investigation into police conduct during the protests, alleging violent abuses by officers, including the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, water cannons and other weapons.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a secret recording leaked to the press that she refused to set up an independent commission over police resistance. Lam was speaking to a group of young people behind closed doors when she made the remarks.
"Many people want to investigate the abuse of power of the police, if they violated this -- and -- that [rule] during operations, so colleagues of the police force were very much opposed to it," Lam said on the recording. "This police force of 30,000 people is very important to us. As the chief executive, I cannot do something hastily which may affect their work."
Lam said it is difficult to officially withdraw a controversial extradition bill as protesters have demanded. In the past, she had declared it "dead." Many fear the bill could be revived and would allow China to force fugitives to the mainland for trial.
The government, which didn't deny the authenticity of the recording, said the comments are statements of fact, but unrelated to the stance of the Hong Kong government.
The Independent Police Complaints Council will handle the complaints against the police and is conducting a study on the protests after June 9. The government statement said it would be "inappropriate" to set up another independent commission of inquiry for investigation.
Critics have said the IPCC is powerless because it can't summon witnesses.
"Today it may be the extradition bill, next year it may be another sensitive issue not related to Hong Kong and mainland [relations," Lam said. "It may be a local sensitive issue that may trigger [protests], because some issues have accumulated over time."
Hours after police banned the weekend protests, Civil Human Rights Front leader Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit was attacked by two masked men with baseball bats at a restaurant. Sham wasn't seriously hurt.