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Pentagon chief urges Chinese restraint over Hong Kong protests

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper holds his first news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., August 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper on Saturday urged the Chinese government to exercise restraint over protests in Hong-Kong.

Esper made his call as police checked people travelling to Hong Kong’s international airport for passports and air tickets, preventing protesters gathering for another “stress test” of road and rail links in the Chinese-ruled city.

Esper was speaking at a joint news conference held with his counterpart French defence minister Florence Parly in Paris.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced concessions this week to try to end the protests, including formally scrapping a hugely unpopular extradition bill, but many said they were too little, too late.

The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, despite Hong Kong having an independent judiciary dating back to British colonial rule.

But the demonstrations, which began in June, have long since broadened into calls for more democracy and many protesters have pledged to fight on.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, Writing by Dominique Vidalon, Editing by Alexander Smith