The Hong Kong government has called a US senator’s comment about not seeing any violence by anti-government demonstrators “baffling.”
The comment came as Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that any attempts to split China would result in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder,” amid four months of anti-Beijing unrest in Hong Kong.
President Xi issued the message during a weekend visit to Nepal, according to a Foreign Ministry statement released on Sunday, AFP reported. “Any external forces that support the splitting of China can only be regarded as delusional by the Chinese people,” Xi said.
Xi did not mention any region by name, but China has accused “external forces” of fueling unrest in Hong Kong.
Xi’s comments came as Hong Kong entered its 19th week of protests, which started as peaceful marches and have escalated into violence by both protesters and police in the city.
The Hong Kong government issued a statement on Sunday, saying Chief Executive Carrie Lam Chen Yuet-ngor had canceled a planned meeting with Republican US Senator Ted Cruz the day before because of “other duty commitments,” while suggesting that Cruz was lying when he told reporters that he hadn’t seen any violence at the demonstrations.
The statement also said Cruz had not raised any objections over an arrangement for both parties not to disclose publicly the contents of their discussions held behind closed doors.
The senator told media earlier that Lam had requested that he keep the discussions in the meeting secret, but Cruz said that showed Lam’s misunderstanding of how free speech and a free press operate, adding that the cancellation was a sign of weakness and fear from Lam, CNN reported.
Lam canceled the meeting with Cruz on his arrival in the city on Saturday morning.
A spokesman for the chief executive’s office said in Sunday’s statement that the office respects the freedom of speech of foreign politicians, but the comments should be based on facts.
It also said it was “baffling” for Cruz to say he did not see any violent acts by protesters and cited various reports on arson, firebomb attacks, and vandalism of shops as well as “wanton” attacks on police officers and others.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong also blasted the comments made by Cruz, describing them as ludicrous and warning him to “stop running amok on China’s land.”
Cruz met with the media in Hong Kong dressed in black, saying he was showing support for the pro-democracy groups in the city.
He said he would continue his efforts in the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which would require a re-evaluation of certain rights the territory was granted that are separate from China.
The act also proposes economic sanctions and penalties on Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have suppressed democracy in the city.
Another Republican senator, Josh Hawley, is also in Hong Kong and went to a protest site in Mong Kok on Sunday to observe and talk to protesters, journalists and citizens. He also supports passing the act.
A protest and rally planned since the anti-mask law came into effect a week ago will be held in Central on Monday night, aiming at urging the United States to speed up passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The organizer received a “no objection letter” from police and 2,000 people are expected to show up.
Meanwhile, the 4-meter-tall “Lady Liberty” statue that was erected at the top of Lion Rock by pro-democracy supporters on Sunday was found to have collapsed and broken on Monday morning.
According to an online photo, the statue’s feet were broken. Some red marks were found on the body of the statue.
The statue was complete with a gas mask, helmet, umbrella and protective goggles, the standard dress code of protesters on the streets in Hong Kong over the past four months.
It held a black banner that read “Revolution of our time. Liberate Hong Kong.”
A team of about 20 people dismantled the statue, which was originally placed on the campus of the University of Hong Kong, before “smuggling” it overnight to the top of Lion Rock in Kowloon on Saturday.
During the transportation process, they encountered thunderstorms at night and it was slightly damaged during the trek and had a broken hand when it was erected.
More than 100 hikers went up the 495-meter-high Lion Road to see it.
The team responsible for transporting the statue said they had expected vandalism and there was no plan to try to reinstall it. They said that even if the statue was not put up again, the memory of it on the top of Lion Rock would remain in Hong Kong people’s minds.