Beijing slams Hong Kong violence as 'unacceptable'

A protester throwing a petrol bomb at Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station during a rally on Sunday. Hong Kong has been riven by seething protests for the past 20 weeks, with violence spiralling on both sides of the ideological divide. PHOTO: REUTERS
A protester throwing a petrol bomb at Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station during a rally on Sunday. Hong Kong has been riven by seething protests for the past 20 weeks, with violence spiralling on both sides of the ideological divide. PHOTO: REUTERS

Minister's comments seen as most direct criticism of unrest

PARIS • China's Foreign Minister has denounced months of pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong as "violence, pure and simple", accusing foreign forces and the international media of fuelling the political crisis.

The comments, in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), were the most direct condemnation from a top Chinese official of the protests that erupted five months ago and have seen millions of people take to the streets, calling for greater democracy.

"What is happening in Hong Kong today are in no way peaceful protests," Mr Wang Yi said in the interview with AFP during a trip to Paris on Monday.

"It's violence, pure and simple. These are unacceptable acts in any country," he added, accusing the protesters of attacking the police, members of the public and paralysing transport.

Hong Kong has been riven by seething protests for the past 20 weeks, with violence spiralling on both sides of the ideological divide.

While huge crowds have regularly marched peacefully, clashes have repeatedly broken out between smaller groups of hardcore protesters and riot police.

Hardline protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails and bricks at the police, as well as vandalised businesses perceived as being pro-China. Police have responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

With no political solution in sight the clashes have intensified with each passing month.

China has run Hong Kong under a special "one country, two systems" policy which allows the city liberties not seen on the mainland, since the financial hub's handover from the British in 1997.

VIOLENCE

It's violence, pure and simple. These are unacceptable acts in any country.

MR WANG YI, China's Foreign Minister on the protests in Hong Kong.

 
 

But public anger has been building for years over fears that Beijing has begun eroding those freedoms, especially since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

This summer's protests were initially sparked by opposition to a now-scrapped proposal to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to China.

The rallies quickly snowballed into a wider anti-government movement after Beijing and local leaders in Hong Kong took a hard line.

China has regularly accused "external forces" of fuelling unrest in Hong Kong, often citing comments by Western politicians supportive of the protests.

In his interview with AFP, Mr Wang again alleged foreigners were involved.

"There are foreign forces which are encouraging this sort of violence in the streets with the aim of destabilising Hong Kong, sowing chaos... to wipe out the historic progress made since the 'one country, two systems' policy was applied," said Mr Wang.

"Such action will never succeed," he added, insisting that the Hong Kong government would be able to re-establish "social order and respect for the rule of law".

With "support from Beijing, Hong Kong will continue to apply the 'one country, two systems' formula", Mr Wang stressed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline 'Beijing slams HK violence as 'unacceptable''. Print Edition | Subscribe