China yesterday accused the US of seeking to “destroy” Hong Kong and threatened retaliation after the US Congress passed new legislation supporting the pro-democracy movement that has thrown the territory into nearly six months of turmoil.
The passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “indulges violent criminals” that China blames for the worsening unrest and aims to “muddle or even destroy Hong Kong,” Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi (王毅) said.
The legislation — which has been sent to US President Donald Trump for consideration — backs universal suffrage, freedom from arbitrary arrest and sanctions against those who contravene such principles.
It was passed by both chambers of Congress on Wednesday, despite warnings from China, which angrily rejects criticism of its handling of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s months of protest began with a now-shelved bill to allow extraditions to China, which revived fears that Beijing was slicing into the territory’s freedoms.
Millions of angry residents have taken to the streets in giant marches and protesters have repeatedly clashed with police in a movement that has widened to include calls for democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality.
The Beijing-appointed leaders of the territory have rebuffed the demands.
The resistance has focused in the past several days on Hong Kong Polytechnic University, with fiery clashes on the campus that saw police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who shot arrows and lobbed Molotov cocktails.
The university yesterday remained under siege, with dozens of holdouts in the movement’s signature black colors defying official calls to surrender.
Hundreds have fled the campus out of fear or deteriorating living conditions, most of them quickly arrested by police on rioting charges.
Exhausted protesters draped in gold and silver medical blankets continued to trickle out yesterday.
However, a 30-year-old masked protester who gave his name as “Mike” scoffed at surrendering, saying that international and local pressure would cause authorities to make a humiliating “retreat.”
“Please try! You’re welcome [to storm the campus],” he told reporters in a message to police. “It will be a fun game of hide-and-seek.”
“Police are making the wrong calculation here if they think we will surrender. We have plenty of resources, plenty of food and water. We can last a month,” he added.
In some areas, materials used for making Molotov cocktails were strewn about — accompanied by warnings against smoking — and graffiti was seen throughout the campus, including messages such as: “You can kill a man, you can’t kill an idea.”
The turmoil has already tipped Hong Kong’s economy into recession and the threat of a change in trade status brought fresh gloom.
Hong Kong’s benchmark stock index ended sharply lower and other Asian markets also lost ground over fears that the US legislation could derail a delicate effort to settle a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
Wang condemned the bill as “naked interference in China’s internal affairs,” according to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which said that the comments were made during a meeting in Beijing with former US secretary of defense William Cohen.
A ministry spokesman also vowed that China would “take effective measures to resolutely fight back,” giving no details.
US policy treats Hong Kong’s economy as separate from the rest of China. That has been a key factor in the territory’s rise as an international financial hub and left it exempt from crippling tariffs imposed on China by Trump’s administration.
The US legislation would require an annual review of that status, which could be revoked if the territory’s unique freedoms are quashed.
“Some may expect this to deter Beijing,” the Global Times said. “Such thinking is naive.”
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