China yesterday warned that Hong Kong’s unrest had gone “far beyond” peaceful protest, after a chaotic weekend of tear gas and clashes illustrated the government’s struggle to quell a leaderless, unpredictable and widespread movement.
Yang Guang (楊光), spokesman for China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), told an unprecedented news briefing in Beijing that some “irresponsible people” in the West have applied “strange logic” that prompted them to be sympathetic and tolerant to “violent crimes,” while criticizing the police force’s “due diligence.”
“At the end of the day, their intention is to create trouble in Hong Kong, make Hong Kong a problem to China, in order to contain China’s development,” Yang said, without mentioning any specific individuals or countries.
He condemned the “evil and criminal acts committed by radical elements.”
“What has happened in Hong Kong recently has gone far beyond the scope of peaceful march and demonstration, undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and touched on the bottom line of the principle of ‘one country, two systems,’” Yang said. “No civilized society under the rule of law would ever allow acts of violence to take place.”
Yang did not rule out military action, pointing to a section of law that gave Hong Kong authorities the power to request support.
He outlined three bottom lines for the territory: No harm to national security, no challenge to the central government’s authority and no using Hong Kong as a base to undermine China.
While officials reaffirmed support for the territory’s government and police force, the decision to address foreign media in Beijing signaled growing concern as eight weeks of unprecedented unrest start to shake business confidence in the former British colony.
“The central government is in quite a difficult situation over Hong Kong,” said Shi Yinhong (時殷弘), a professor of international relations and director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. “Today’s statements by the Hong Kong affairs office generally is to assure that the central government is supporting the Hong Kong government to take more police action against the violent protesters.”
The office was compelled to respond after three days of protest that saw unauthorized demonstrations across four districts, including the airport and downtown shopping areas.
The developments raised new fears that the violence may continue to escalate, forcing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to send in the military or take other actions that undermine the “high degree of autonomy” promised to Hong Kong before its 1997 return.
Xi has so far maintained support for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥).
Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers said the agency did little to resolve a crisis that they trace to the territory’s inability to elect its own leaders.
At a news conference in the territory, lawmakers accused the government of shifting the blame to radical protesters, Western countries and the foreign media.
“Beijing tried to make some feeble attempt to help maintain what they assume are the security problems in Hong Kong,” said Claudia Mo (毛孟靜), a legislator and high-profile participant in several peaceful marches. “That won’t help the governance and political crisis that Hong Kong is facing.”
She said she fears that the HKMAO’s statements would further inflame demonstrators.
“I’m so worried that what happened in Beijing this afternoon will actually help fan the fire of what’s already been a tsunami of protests in Hong Kong,” Mo said, given that the office appeared to fully support the police and Lam.
Pro-Beijing lawmakers said the “general wishes of the residents are for the violence to stop immediately.
“Regardless of your stance, I think all this violence should not continue because it brings no benefit to any person,” legislator Starry Lee (李慧瓊) said.
Earlier yesterday, an edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily urged stern action by Hong Kong’s police to restore order.
“At a time like this, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Government and the police should not hesitate or have any unnecessary ‘psychological worries’ about taking necessary steps,” the piece published in the overseas edition of the newspaper said.
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