China has harshly condemned the recent violence that shuttered Hong Kong’s international airport for two days as protesters and police clashed, leaving several injured as the U.S. Navy sought to dock in the restive city.
Tuesday’s flare-up in what has been a months-long series of demonstrations against Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous government saw protesters hunting for suspected spies and undercover cops used by Beijing to infiltrate the movement. In one instance, demonstrators attacked and detained a reporter from China’s ruling Communist Party tabloid Global Times, drawing anger from the official outlet as well as “great indignation and strong condemnation” Wednesday from Chinese State Council Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office spokesperson Xu Luying.
“We express our strongest condemnations of these terrorist-like acts and express our deepest condolences to the injured mainland compatriots and Hong Kong police officers,” Xu told said in a statement, arguing such actions have “broken the bottom line of the law, morality and humanity.”
“It is shocking and chilling to openly commit serious violent crimes in plain sight,” she added. “Their behavior shows an extreme contempt for the rule of law, seriously damaging Hong Kong’s international’s image and offending a vast number their mainland compatriots. Such extremely violent crimes must be severely punished according to the law.”
Hong Kong’s protests began earlier this year in response to a proposed bill that would allow residents accused of a crime in the special administrative region to be extradited to other parts of China to face trial. While Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has since agreed to suspend the bill, protesters have demanded it be scrapped entirely and have called for resignation as well as looser election laws, more government accountability and overall greater distance from Beijing, which claimed sovereignty over the city as part of a “one country, two systems” framework following a handover from its colonizer, the United Kingdom, in 1997.
The protests have grown increasingly violent, however, and Yang Guang, also from the Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, just days ago expressed a similar sentiment to Xu in response to a petrol bomb attack against several police stations over the weekend. He warned the recent unrest across Hong Kong “has begun to show signs of terrorism.”
Meanwhile, officials in Beijing have also increasingly warned against external influence from the West, where officials and politicians from the U.S. and the U.K. have cheered on the demonstrations. Various news outlets cited U.S. Pacific Fleet deputy spokesperson Commander Nathan Christensen as saying Tuesday that China rejected a scheduled port visit by two ships.
San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie were reportedly set to stop in Hong Kong in the coming weeks and was Christensen was quoted in outlets such as Fox News, CNN and Bloomberg as saying that “the U.S. Navy has a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, and we expect them to continue.”
Yang Yujun, a former Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson and dean of the academy of media and public affairs at the Communication University of China, told Global Times on Wednesday, however, that “the security situation in Hong Kong is very severe” and, pointing to the State Department’s issuance last week of a travel warning to the troubled city, said “the U.S. request to have warships stop by in Hong Kong is contradictory to the warning and very inappropriate.”
Yang argued that “the role the U.S. has been playing in the turmoil in Hong Kong” was obvious, calling Washington’s motives “highly suspicious.” Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University’s Institute of International Relations, told Global Times that the “U.S. knows perfectly well what is happening, but still tries to send warships to Hong Kong to back up the creators of chaos,” calling on Washington to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs before China-U.S. relations suffer an even more serious and irreversible blow.”
U.S. politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Marc Rubio, Representative Ted Yoho and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke have expressed support for the protests in Hong Kong.
Top members of President Donald Trump’s administration such as Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton have also met with opposition supporters, while a U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong was recently caught on camera meeting with local activists participating in the demonstrations.
Such actions have been met with deep criticism in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called out U.S. lawmakers Tuesday, saying their comments “provided the world with new and powerful evidence on the country’s involvement” in the demonstrations.
“By neglecting and distorting the truth, they whitewashed violent crimes as a struggle for human rights and freedom, and deliberately misinterpreted the work of Hong Kong police as violent repression when the police were only enforcing the law, fighting crimes and upholding social order,” Hua argued, saying “they even incited the Hong Kong residents to engage in confrontation” with the Hong Kong and central government in China.
Trump himself claimed he “can’t imagine why” he was being implicated in the unrest, but then shared news article relating to the story, including one highlighting the presence of U.S. flags at the protest. The president also warned that U.S. intelligence “has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong” as various videos circulating online showed Chinese military personnel amassing at the city of Shenzhen, just outside of Hong Kong.
Security in Hong Kong has so far been handled by the local police force, but the commander of the Chinese military garrison in the city has warned his troops may intervene if deemed necessary. Late last month, the garrison released a video detailing “anti-riot” training that included the use of heavy weaponry, tanks, warships and aircraft.