In rare remarks on Hong Kong after its 1997 handover, China on Monday condemned the ongoing pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous territory, supported police action against vandalism and denounced foreign powers that encourage the protests.
The massive demonstrations often leading to violence damaged Hong Kong’s rule of law, public order and economy, said Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.
Yang avoided the words “riots” or “rioters” to describe the civil unrest in the city.
He called the protesters who vandalised the central government’s liaison office building in Sai Ying Pun last week and the legislative council chamber weeks ago as a small number of radicals.
This group is causing damage to Hong Kong’s values and the civil society should resist this, he said.
Hong Kongers are protesting against a proposed law that would have allowed the extradition of political and human rights activists along with fugitives to mainland China.
After facing a series of protests that grabbed international attention, the Hong Kong government said the extradition bill is as good as dead. But protesters fear the bill may be reintroduced.
The protesters are also upset over the prospect of long jail term for the city’s youth who led them and excessive use of force by police to break up their rallies. Their demand for the resignation of Hong Kong’s top leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, has also been ignored.
Yang hailed Lam and police for fearlessly holding their positions amid the unprecedented street protests.
Yang said Lam had admitted flaws in her policies and promised to address them.
Evading the question of setting up an inquiry into the way the police handled the protests so far, he said they are doing their best to restore law and order.
On the possibility of the People’s Liberation Army being called in to rein in the protests, Yang said Hong Kong’s Basic Law and Garrison Law allow their deployment in extreme situations.
Without naming the US and UK, he assailed foreign powers for turning Hong Kong into a problem territory for China.
In the latest protests on Sunday, police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse demonstrators across the city’s districts.
On Saturday, Hong Kong’s local mafia called triad attacked protesters at the metro station in Yuen Long.
Yang dismissed allegations of collusion between police, mainland officials and the criminal gang in the attack.
Commenting on the rare press conference, Opposition lawmakers said Yang failed to address the core political issue behind Hong Kong protests. Instead, he was trying to project China’s “moderate” views.
Many of them feared Beijing’s full support to police would embolden them further in their use of force against protesters.