Communist Chinese media on Tuesday praised the Hong Kong police for their “restraint” in dealing with “radical protesters” – even though the island is currently boiling with outrage over the death of a student and the caught-on-video shooting of a protester – and urged police to “shoot down the rioters,” with assistance from the People’s Liberation Army if necessary.
Monday was an especially chaotic day for the protest movement, marked by two serious acts of violence: a police officer shooting a protester in the abdomen, and a pro-Beijing demonstrator suffering severe burns after he was doused in flaming liquid. Chinese media outlets were not much troubled by the former incident, but they were outraged by the latter. As of Tuesday morning, the man who was shot was listed in serious condition, while the man who was burned was in critical condition.
China Daily editorialized that Hong Kong judges have been too lenient toward protesters and the police might have indulged in too much “tolerance and restraint,” emboldening hooligans to commit “terrorist acts.”
This narrative inverts the complaints of protesters about police brutality and their government’s refusal to take their demands seriously. Among the “five demands” constantly repeated by protesters are a call for charges against demonstrators, perceived as unfair and politically motivated, to be dropped, and a demand for a serious independent investigation of police conduct.
The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times was even harsher than China Daily, railing against the protesters as “frenzied thugs” and describing the viral video of the police shooting as an officer “forced to pull out his gun as he was facing several mobs alone.”
In fact, the video shows the officer provoking the violent confrontation, which is probably why the Global Times decided not to embed a copy or link to it:
The Global Times did embed the video of the immolation attack on a pro-Beijing demonstrator and responded with fury:
We strongly condemn the barbarism of the mobs that set fire to an ordinary citizen who disagrees with them. Their heinous performance is no different from that of terrorists. Claiming democracy and freedom, the rioters cannot tolerate people who express different perspectives. They are showing vicious and primitive autocratic fanaticism.
The radical protesters who claim to be valiant have resorted to violence, with their targets ranging from police officers to ordinary people who simply don’t support them. They are creating terror that is unprecedented in any civilized society, by fatally stabbing pro-establishment legislator, throwing Molotov cocktails into courts and setting ordinary people on fire.
Actions must be taken to resolutely control the increasingly rampant mobs. It is time for all Hongkongers to step forward to defend the city’s rule of law.
The state-run paper declared that it “firmly supports the Hong Kong police in shooting down the rioters” if they perpetrate violent assaults and reminded Hong Kong authorities that the Chinese military “will back you up in accordance with the Basic Law.”
“You are on the edge of doom,” the Global Times warned protesters. “Those who are coerced to be ‘valiant’ should walk away as soon as possible when you still can make the call. Those who stubbornly engage in evil acts will eventually be punished by law and morality.”
Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam made her own comments on Tuesday suggesting a crackdown could be imminent.
“They want Hong Kong to stop running – it is extremely selfish,” Lam said of the protest movement. “We will not compromise with radical behaviors and persist on going to work and school.”
Most ominously, Lam ruled out negotiations with the protest movement as “wishful thinking” on their part and denounced them as an “enemy of the people,” a phrase with extremely dire consequences throughout the history of Communist China.
“I do not want to go into details, but I just want to make it very clear that we will spare no effort in finding ways and means that could end the violence in Hong Kong as soon as possible,” she said.
“Our society has been pushed to the brink of a total breakdown,” a police spokesman said at a media briefing on Tuesday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday blasted Western nations for expressing concerns about police brutality in Hong Kong and repeated Beijing’s accusation that foreign powers are behind the protest movement.
“The United States and Britain pretend to be fair on this incident, but it only reveals how they confuse right and wrong and how hypocritical they are. And their verbal justice once again exposes their double standards and ulterior motives,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman charged.