HONG KONG • The Liaison Office, China's top agency in Hong Kong, accused protesters of jeopardising the city's future, calling demonstrations on Friday "illegal activities" - the latest signal that it intends to take a more hands-on role in the semi-autonomous territory.
In a statement published yesterday on its website, the Liaison Office said "extremist radicals" were involved in illegal gatherings, the harassment of shops and the throwing of petrol bombs.
It accused them of trying to incite people into taking part in violence at a time when the international community was jointly battling the coronavirus pandemic.
"Does Hong Kong have a future, if such malfeasance are let go?" it asked.
China has taken a more assertive approach since replacing top officials responsible for Hong Kong earlier this year.
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, the Beijing-based agency that oversees the Liaison Office, drew criticism from local lawyers and opposition lawmakers last month - after claiming the bodies were not bound by constitutional provisions against interference in local affairs agreed before the former British colony's return to Chinese rule in 1997.
The Liaison Office said that violence was the reason for a rising wave of business closures and unemployment in Hong Kong. Negative economic growth and a slipping in the rankings of the city's universities shows how the world is losing confidence in the city.
It also criticised opposition lawmakers for promoting the so-called "yellow economy", without regard for free-market rules for the purpose of gaining seats in the upcoming Legislative Council elections in September.
Protesters encourage people to boycott pro-China and pro-government businesses, and to support the "yellow economy" of shops and companies that back their cause.
Fifteen people, including prominent pro-democracy activists and a lawmaker, were arrested last month, a move that antagonised protesters, who had paralysed the city for much of last year, and drew fresh condemnation from the United States and Britain.
The Covid-19 crisis essentially brought a halt to social unrest in the city.
Riot police were deployed across Hong Kong on Friday as anti-government protesters queued outside local businesses known to support the democracy movement, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported.
Police arrested a 15-year-old boy in connection with a suspected petrol bomb, RTHK said in a separate report.