Beijing condemns Hong Kong protests in first comments on crisis

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China on Monday condemned Hong Kong’s anti-government protest movement, describing it as disruptive.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, which is China’s top authority on the former British colony, made the condemnation at a rare news conference on the escalating crisis in the semi-autonomous city-state.

“These horrendous incidents have severely damaged the rule of law, public order, the economy and the lives of the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

He called on “people from all levels of society in Hong Kong to speak out unequivocally against violence and to stand against it,” blaming a “small number of people” for damaging the region’s values.

He said that no civilized society would allow such violence to take place.

According to the South China Morning Post, the briefing marked the first the office has held since 1997 and comes after weeks of protests against a proposed law that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.

Although the legislation that sparked the protests in June has been indefinitely shelved, hundreds of thousands of protesters have continued to express their dissatisfaction with the financial hub’s government and what they say is excessive use of force by police.

On Sunday, Hong Kong police used rubber bullets and tear gas for a second straight day in attempts to clear thousands of demonstrators from sites across the city’s business and shopping districts.

Tensions escalated the previous weekend, when a group of men wearing white t-shirts, widely believed to belong to Hong Kong’s triads, or local mafia, attacked protesters at a metro station.

Protesters have also called for the resignation of the city’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, as well as the expansion of democracy.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, with China promising to maintain Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status until at least 2047.

A principle of “one country, two systems” has been in place since then.

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