Chinese state media warns conflicts could hurt Hong Kong economy

The skyline of Hong Kong on June 18, 2019.
The skyline of Hong Kong on June 18, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Confrontations and outbreaks of lawlessness in Hong Kong could damage its reputation as an international business hub and seriously hurt its economy, China's Communist Party newspaper the People's Daily said in an editorial on Wednesday (July 3).

Hundreds of protesters in the former British colony besieged and broke into the legislature late on Monday after a demonstration marking the anniversary of the city's return to Chinese rule in 1997.

China called the violence an "undisguised challenge" to the "one country, two systems" model under which Hong Kong has been ruled for 22 years.

"It is not surprising there are some disagreements and even major disputes about certain issues, but if we fall into the whirlpool of 'overpoliticisation' and artificially create division and opposition, it will not only serve no purpose, but will also severely hinder economic and social development," the People's Daily said.

The turbulence in Hong Kong was triggered by an extradition Bill opponents say will undermine Hong Kong's much-cherished rule of law and give Beijing powers to prosecute activists in mainland courts.

The People's Daily said the rule of law did not mean a small number of "extremists" should be allowed to conduct violent crimes that would damage Hong Kong's reputation as an international business city.

It warned that Hong Kong was already under pressure as a result of changes to the global economy and intensifying competition, and "cannot bear turbulence and internal friction".

China has blamed Western countries, particularly the United States and Hong Kong’s former colonial master Britain, for offering succour to the protests.

The official China Daily, an English-language newspaper often used by Beijing to put out its message to the rest of the world, denounced “outside agitations” in its editorial on Wednesday.

“What has also been notable is the hypocrisy of some Western governments – the United States and United Kingdom most prominently – which have called for a stop to the violence, as if they have had nothing to do with it,” the China Daily said.

“But, looking back at the whole protest saga, they have been deeply involved in fuelling it since its inception,” it said.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt condemned violence on both sides on Tuesday and warned of consequences if China neglects commitments made when it took back Hong Kong to allow freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China, including the right to protest.

China said on Monday Britain no longer has any responsibility for Hong Kong and needed to stop “gesticulating” about the city.