The U.S. State Department denounced the Chinese Communist government this week as a “thuggish regime” after a pro-Beijing newspaper published personal information about an American diplomat who met with Hong Kong student leaders, including the names of the diplomat’s children.
The UK Telegraph summarized the situation on Friday, taking pains to avoid naming the American diplomat:
The diplomat was targeted for meeting with pro-democracy student leaders, including Joshua Wong, in the lobby of one of the city’s hotels, as the financial hub enters its tenth week of increasingly violent protests against Beijing’s rule.
Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao published a photograph of the meeting, identifying the diplomat as a member of the consulate’s political section, and running it under the headline “Foreign Forces Intervene.”
The report has been used to bolster Beijing’s building narrative which has blamed Hong Kong’s ongoing unrest on “black hands” of the US, rather than what protesters have called a last stand to safeguard their freedoms and rights.
In a statement, China’s foreign ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with the consulate over the meeting, demanding that Washington “immediately make a clean break from anti-China forces who stir up trouble in Hong Kong.”
When State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus was asked about the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s statement, she replied:
I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information, pictures, names of their children – I don’t think that that’s a formal protest. That is what a thuggish regime would do. That’s not how a responsible nation would behave. Releasing any of that personal information of an American diplomat is completely unacceptable. That’s not a protest. That’s what a thuggish regime does, and it’s unacceptable.
This is what American diplomats do every single day around the world. American diplomats meet with formal government officials, we meet with opposition protesters, not just in Hong Kong or China. I mean, this literally happens in every single country in which an American embassy is present. So our diplomat was doing her job and we commend her for her work.
Pro-Beijing forces have increasingly turned to violence in a bid to silence the Hong Kong protest movement, both in China and abroad. The Chinese government has excused or actively supported these violent actions as expressions of “patriotism.”
The Chinese Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong lashed out at Ortagus on Friday, calling her comments “blatant slander against China which has confounded right with wrong and again exposed US gangster logic and hegemonic thinking.”
The office repeated China’s accusation that the American diplomat meeting with Hong Kong protesters was an assault on China’s “sovereignty” and a violation of “international law and basic norms governing international relations.”
“We again sternly urge the U.S. side to abide by international law and norms governing international relations and stop its wrong actions of interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs and undermining their sovereignty and security. Otherwise, it would only shoot itself in the foot and meet with international opprobrium,” the statement said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying criticized Ortagus on similar grounds in a statement on Friday morning.
“This State Department spokeswoman actually said that intervening in other countries’ internal affairs is something that’s common for American diplomats around the world and greatly appreciated. How can the world be peaceful?” Hua said.