China blames US for backing Hong Kong 'violent separatists'

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The Hong Kong office of China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed US politicians for supporting "radical rioters" and interfering in the internal affairs of the Asian financial hub.

A statement on the office's website urged US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other US politicians "to stop colluding with the violent offenders in Hong Kong, immediately stop advancing the relevant bills, and refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs and China's domestic affairs as a whole."

Hong Kong has witnessed nearly two months of sometimes violent protests against a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be tried in China.

The protests against the extradition law have since morphed into a broader movement against the Hong Kong government and the encroachment of Beijing on the city's autonomy.

The protests represent the most serious political crisis in Hong Kong since it returned to China in 1997. They also pose a challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and come as the US and China are engaged in a escalating trade warand geopolitical competition in the Asia-Pacific.

Beijing has tried to discredit the protest movement by linking it to foreign powers.

"Pelosi and some other American politicians have time and again whitewashed and endorsed the radical rioters on the pretext of upholding 'democracy' and 'freedoms,' fueled radical violence in Hong Kong, and arbitrarily smeared the just efforts by the SAR Government [Hong Kong] and the police to punish violence and defend the rule of law," the statement by the foreign ministry Hong Kong office continued.

"It is exactly because of the open connivance and support by the foreign forces that the violent offenders have been further emboldened to defy the law."

Congress mobilizes, Trump holds back

Pelosi on Tuesday issued a statement praising "the extraordinary outpouring of courage from the people of Hong Kong [that] stands in stark contrast to a cowardly government that refuses to respect the rule of law or live up to the ‘one country, two systems' framework which was guaranteed more than two decades ago."

Hong Kong was returned to China under the promise of "one country, two systems," which provides the city political, civil and economic freedoms not allowed under Communist Party rule on the mainland.

In the statement, Pelosi vowed to advance a bi-partisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act when Congress reconvenes from recess.

The legislation would reaffirm US support for democratization and Hong Kong's autonomous status, while potentially impacting the city's special trade status. It would also require the president to apply sanctions on individuals identified as responsible for the surveillance, abduction, detention, or forced confessions of booksellers and journalists in Hong Kong, as well as for other actions suppressing freedoms.

Last week, US President Donald Trump described the protests in Hong Kong as "riots," borrowing the same terminology used by Beijing.

"Hong Kong is a part of China, they'll have to deal with that themselves," he said, indicating the administration might take a hands-off approach.

Travel warning

The US state department urged increased caution by citizens traveling to the city-state.

"The protests and confrontations have spilled over into neighbourhoods other than those where the police have permitted marches or rallies," its travel advisory stated.

"These demonstrations, which can take place with little or no notice, are likely to continue," it added.

The advisory was raised to level two on a four-point scale.

cw/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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