China calls Hong Kong anti-government protesters ‘political virus’


China’s Hong Kong affairs office warned on Wednesday that the city will never be calm unless “black-clad violent protesters” were all removed, describing them as a “political virus” that seeks independence from Beijing.

The strongly worded statement comes amid mounting concerns among democracy activists that China is tightening its grip over the former British colony, while a lockdown to prevent coronavirus infections has largely kept their movement off the streets.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office (HKMAO) warned that China’s central government will not sit idly by “with this recklessly demented force in place” and that China’s central government has the greatest responsibility in maintaining order and safeguarding national security.

“The scorched-earth action of the black-clad violent protesters is a political virus in Hong Kong society and a big enemy to ‘one-country-two-systems’,” the office said in a statement on Wednesday.

It said the protesters and their oft-used mantra of “if we burn, you burn with us” were a “political virus”, and that the movement’s organisers wanted to “drag Hong Kong off a cliff”.

It said that while many Hong Kongers had sympathy and understanding for them, “the more sympathisers the tyrants have, the greater price Hong Kong will pay”.

The HKMAO statement comes amid a ratcheting up of rhetoric from Beijing towards protesters in Hong Kong and a crackdown on pro-democracy leaders before elections in September.

More than 7,000 protesters have been arrested since June, and recent hardline tactics, including the mass arrests of protest figures, have drawn international criticism and accusations Beijing is using the pandemic as a cover to “turn the screws on Hong Kong”.

The HKMAO labelled the protest movement as black-clad violence which openly challenged the “one country, two systems” principle, trampled on the rule of law, disrupted the social order, damaged property, business, and Hong Kong’s reputation, and endangered lives.

Hong Kong’s economy recorded its deepest ever contraction this quarter, dropping 8.9% year on year. The statement said there were several factors including the coronavirus pandemic, but “the biggest scourge in Hong Kong comes from within”.

“It can be said the forces of black violence are destroying the foundation of Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the statement said.

It said the central government had responsibility for safeguarding national security and the constitutional order in Hong Kong, and called for the urgent implementation of long-shelved national security laws.

As Hong Kong relaxes strict Covid-19 pandemic measures, some protests have started again, mostly small groups of people gathering in shopping malls to sing. Police have reportedly enforced bans on public gatherings and used pepper spray to disperse people. Applications for larger marches have been denied. (Source: The Guardian)