The Chinese government on Monday restated its support for Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, insisted Hong Kong police acted appropriately to control violent protests, and suggested the massive protest movement is filled with unwitting dupes who have been misled about the Chinese legal system.
Spokesman Yang Guang of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office condemned demonstrators on Monday for exceeding “the boundaries of acceptable protest.”
Yang called on Hong Kong residents to “clearly oppose violence” and “strongly uphold the rule of law.”
Although the demonstrators have demanded thorough investigations of excessive police force used against them, Yang stated China’s full support for Hong Kong authorities and extended sympathies for “the tremendous pressure felt by police and their families.”
Yang made no allowance for civil disobedience, denouncing the protest movement by saying “violence is violence, breaking the law is breaking the law.”
“If Hong Kong continues to be in chaos, it will have a cost upon society,” he warned.
Yang said the protesters have been led astray by “some people and media with ulterior motives” and implied they do not really understand the extradition bill they came together to oppose or the Chinese legal system they fear getting extradited to.
“At the end of the day, their intention is to create trouble in Hong Kong, make Hong Kong a problem to China, in order to contain China’s development,” he said, adding:
The central government firmly supports Chief Executive Carrie Lam leading the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government in the law-based governance, supports the Hong Kong police in their strict law enforcement, supports relevant departments of the SAR government and judicial organs in punishing the violent criminals in accordance with the law, and supports the people who love both our country and Hong Kong in their action to defend the rule of law in the region.
Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong called Beijing’s attitude “disappointing” and grimly predicted it would create a “vicious cycle” of even greater violence by emboldening pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong to crack down harder on the protest movement.
China’s state-run Global Times lauded the Hong Kong police for dispersing “illegal rallies” with tear gas and blamed the protesters for escalating violence, vandalism, and disruptions to daily life in Hong Kong.
“From using umbrellas and batons to throwing paint bombs and canisters, from making traffic obstructions to attacking the police, protesters are upgrading their violent means,” lawyer and extradition bill supporter Kennedy Wong Ying-ho told the Global Times.
The Chinese Communist paper echoed the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office by claiming Western media “targeted the police and tried to smear their role.”
“Western and Hong Kong media have blamed the police for their alleged brutality against protesters, but deliberately ignored protestors’ violent provocation,” the Global Times charged, playing up an escalating war of words between Western and Chinese officials:
On Friday US Congressman Eliot L. Engel criticized police violence, saying it “tarnished Hong Kong’s international reputation for good governance and the fair administration of justice.”
A spokesperson for the Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong on Sunday rebuked Engel’s remarks, saying he was telling a slanderous “bare-faced lie.”
“Anyone without prejudice will admit that Hong Kong police have exercised enormous restraint and shown their professionalism when dealing with violence and provocation by the mob,” according to the spokesperson.
Wang Dan, an associate professor from the Faculty of Education, Hong Kong University, told the Global Times that there were not many precedents for Hong Kong police using tear gas, but objectively speaking in his opinion, they exercised great restraint.
“Most times during the protests, the police aimed to disperse them and guard their line of defense,” said Wang.
“Compare that to what the police in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK did in the face of such situations, such as when Occupy Wall Street occurred – what the Hong Kong police did is much milder,”according to Wang.
Another state-run mainland paper, the People’s Daily, on Monday said Hong Kong police “should not hesitate or have any unnecessary ‘psychological worries’ about taking all necessary steps” to preserve public order.
“We cannot condone the lawbreakers just because they are holding up high the banner of ‘freedom and democracy’ or wearing the hat of ‘civil disobedience,’” the People’s Daily said.
“Hong Kong has lost its normal way of life as a society governed by the rule of law, and fallen into the ‘trap’ of foreign forces who are determined to sow unrest in China in the name of ‘democracy,’” the Chinese Communist paper said ominously.