Beijing on Thursday described the mass protests against Hong Kong’s extradition bill as “riots” and insinuated Western countries were involved, but added that China supported the local government’s response.
Rubber bullets and tear gas were used by police to break up large crowds of protesters on Wednesday who were angry about legislation they say would leave people vulnerable to China’s questionable and politicized justice system.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday described the mostly peaceful protests as “an act that undermines Hong Kong’s stability.”
“What happened in the Admiralty area was not a peaceful rally, but a riot organized by a group,” he said. “We support the Hong Kong government’s dealing with the situation in accordance with the law.”
The Hong Kong government has claimed the protests involved other countries trying to start a “color revolution” aimed at making Hong Kong uncontrollable.
A column in the pro-government Sing Tao Daily in Hong Kong on Thursday quoted unnamed government sources as saying that the protest, which the Chief Executive and police force classed as an “organized riot,” was aimed at bringing down the government and even at advocating independence for Hong Kong.
The paper said it believed senior government officials had several meetings on Wednesday to study the situation in Admiralty and came to this conclusion. Their evaluation was that the unrest would not end in one day and they hoped the police force could restore order as soon as possible.
The government has said it had no plans to retract the contentious bill, even after more than one million people rallied on Sunday and 72 people were injured after police fired peppy spray and tear gas at the protesters in Admiralty.
News website HK01.com also quoted an unnamed government source as saying 40,000 people occupied the main roads in Admiralty on Wednesday.
At meetings with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and senior officials, police told them a large quantity of “weapons” had been seized, which included sharpened steel poles and bricks, leading them to believe external forces were behind the scenes and providing these “weapons” to the protesters, according to local media.
Despite protesters repeatedly saying they took to the streets to oppose the extradition bill amendment, the government has come up with a different interpretation, sources said.
The government has concluded that someone wanted to turn the protests into a color revolution in Hong Kong involving external forces, or other countries, the paper said.
“Occupy Central happened five years ago. This year the unrest is much bigger. How could the government govern the city if we make a concession? If it happens, it’s not Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong, it’s foreign people ruling Hong Kong,” the paper said. The article did not mention what external forces it was referring to.
Hu Xijin, the chief editor of Chinese government mouthpiece Global Times, criticized the protesters on his Twitter account, saying this kind of violent demonstration was not supposed to happen in Hong Kong.
“It looks like a color revolution,” he said. “I don’t think Westerners that encourage protesters in Hong Kong want the best for the city. They would rather see disturbance there.”
Meanwhile, pro-Beijing sociologist Lau Siu-kei said there was no room to either retract the bill or suspend it.
Professor Lau, the deputy chairman of the National Research Council of Hong Kong and Macao and the former head of the government think tank Central Policy Unit, said the central government noted the worries of the Hong Kong people, but the issue now involved sovereignty and national security.