Beijing blames Washington for violence in Hong Kong

Updated July 24, 2019

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In this Sunday, July 21, 2019, photo, men in white shirts armed with metal rods and wooden poles attack commuters at a subway station in New Territory in Hong Kong. — Apple Daily via AP
In this Sunday, July 21, 2019, photo, men in white shirts armed with metal rods and wooden poles attack commuters at a subway station in New Territory in Hong Kong. — Apple Daily via AP

BEIJING: China said on Tuesday that US officials were behind violent chaos in Hong Kong and warned against interference, following a series of protests in the city, including bloody clashes on the weekend.

“We can see that US officials are even behind such incidents,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a regular press briefing on Tuesday. She was referring to violence related to weeks of protests spearheaded by pro-democracy activists against a bill that would allow people to be extradited from the city to stand trial in courts in mainland China.

“So can the officials tell the world what role did they play and what are their aims? Hua asked.

On Sunday, groups of men in white T-shirts, who opposition politicians suspect were linked to Hong Kong criminal gangs, assaulted some pro-democracy protesters, after some protesters had vandalised Beijing’s main office in the city.

Hua, asked about criticism of violence by the United States and Hong Kong’s former colonial ruler, Britain, said China would not tolerate any interference.

“The US should know one thing, that Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, and we do not allow any foreign interference,” she said.

“We advise the US to withdraw their black hands.” US President Donald Trump said on Monday that he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping has acted very responsibly with regard to the protests.

The financial hub returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

But many in Hong Kong resent what they see as Beijing’s creeping control and its refusal to let its residents directly elect their leader.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has warned that the violent protests over the proposed legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China were an “undisguised challenge” to the formula under which it is ruled.

Men with triad links held

Hong Kong police have detained six men, some with links to triads, following a violent attack on pro-democracy protesters at a subway station that saw dozens injured.

Senior police official Chan Tin-chu said the men, aged between 24 and 54, were held for “unlawful assembly” and is being investigated for taking part in the attack late Sunday night at the subway station in the Yuen Long neighbourhood. Some of them are villagers, and their occupation range from drivers and hawkers to renovation workers, he said.

“Some of them have triad background,” he said. “I believe that more...will be detained soon. Police will not condone any form of violence.” Police are still investigating the motive of the attack, Chan added, without providing further details on the alleged links to the triads, or organised crime.

A gang of white-clad men armed with metal rods and wooden poles beat up anti-government protesters and others inside a subway station at the Yuen Long neighbourhood, injuring 45 people including a man who remained in critical condition.

Police have come under fire for being slow to respond to the violence against the protesters. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said police were stretched thin due to the massive crowds and denied accusations that her government colluded with the assailants.

The assault escalated a crisis that had thrown the former British colony into turmoil after millions of people took to the streets in waves of protest against an extradition bill that would send suspects for trial in China. Critics see it as rising Chinese influence and fear it will chip away at Hong Kong’s freedoms promised under a “one country, two system” formula since it returned to China in 1997.

More than 100,000 people took part in the latest rally in the city earlier on Sunday to demand democracy and an investigation into the use of force by police to disperse crowds at protests. Some protesters directed their ire at China, pelting its office in Hong Kong with eggs, spray-painted its wall and defaced its emblem Sunday night.

As demonstrators made their way home, the white-clad men descended on a group of them at the subway station in Yuen Long.

Videos showed them charging into the trains and beating up people who tried to defend themselves with umbrellas.

More protests have been planned but the latest violence has fuelled fears that China’s People’s Liberation Army may intervene.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2019