China defends Hong Kong police, blames Western forces
BEIJING (AP) — China blamed Western forces and defended police conduct after Hong Kong endured another weekend of violent clashes between protesters and police.
Some “irresponsible people” in the West have applied “strange logic” that made them sympathetic and tolerant to “violent crimes” but critical of the police force’s “due diligence,” a Chinese government spokesman said at a news briefing Monday.
“At the end of the day, their intention is to create trouble in Hong Kong, make Hong Kong a problem to China, in order to contain China’s development,” said Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, without mentioning any specific individuals or countries.
He added that such attempts will come to nothing because Beijing will tolerate no outside interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.
Residents of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory began protesting in early June for the government to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened. The government suspended the bill, but the protests have expanded to calls for democracy and government accountability.
Police on Sunday repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking Hong Kong streets with road signs and umbrellas.
The protesters have demanded an independent inquiry into police conduct at the protests, which they say has been abusive.
At least one woman was knocked down when police used rods Saturday to disperse crowds in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long area, where officers later charged into a train station swinging batons. Protesters were “holding iron poles, self-made shields and even removing fences from roads,” police said in a statement that accused demonstrators of putting officers’ lives in danger by surrounding an occupied police vehicle.
Yang said the Chinese government firmly supports the police in Hong Kong.
“We understand the huge pressure facing the Hong Kong police and their families,” he said, “and would like to salute the Hong Kong police who have been fearlessly sticking to their posts and fulfilling their duties against all odds.”
Hong Kong’s government and police force have said the protests have placed considerable strain on their officers, who are dispatched in large numbers for the protests, which occur at least once a week and generally go late into the night despite repeated appeals to disband. Hong Kong authorities said these pressures made it difficult for police to act immediately when a band of white-clad assailants beat people inside the Yuen Long train station on July 21.
Protesters said the slow police response to that attack indicated that officers were colluding with the attackers — an allegation that authorities have refuted. Last Monday, police arrested six men in connection with the attack, including some linked to triad gangs.
Pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong said the “general wishes” of the city’s residents are for the violence to stop immediately.
“Regardless of your stance, I think all this violence should not continue because it brings no benefit to any person,” said legislator Starry Lee.
Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker, said she fears the Chinese government’s statements will further inflame demonstrators.
“I’m so worried that what happened in Beijing this afternoon will actually help fan the fire of what’s already been a tsunami of protests in Hong Kong,” Mo said, noting that the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office appeared to fully support the police and Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam.
Tam reported from Hong Kong. Associated Press news assistants Nadia Lam and Phoebe Lai in Hong Kong contributed to this report.