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Beijing warns of 'signs of terrorism' in violent unrest in Hong Kong

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 12/8/2019 Sarah Zheng
a group of people on a city street: Riot police run towards anti-government protesters in Sham Shui Po during another day of clashes on Sunday. Photo: Felix Wong © Felix Wong Riot police run towards anti-government protesters in Sham Shui Po during another day of clashes on Sunday. Photo: Felix Wong

Beijing on Monday warned that escalating violence by anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, especially against the police, was showing "signs of terrorism” and reiterated its support for the city’s force to take resolute action to crack down on "rioters”.

Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) under the State Council, read out a stern statement to Hong Kong media in Beijing in the afternoon, saying the city had come to a "critical moment” and vowing to clamp down on violent crime with an "iron fist”.

In particular, the spokesman condemned as reckless petrol bomb attacks on police stations by protesters that left an officer injured on Sunday.

"In recent days, Hong Kong’s radical protesters have repeatedly attacked police with highly dangerous tools, which constitute serious violent crimes and have started to show signs of terrorism,” Yang said. "This type of violent criminal activity must be resolutely combated according to the law, with no hesitation or mercy.”

The central government’s representative office in Hong Kong also described the escalating violence as "terrorist acts” in a separate statement.

"Nowhere in the world would tolerate these heinous and extreme atrocities,” the liaison office said. "If we allow these types of terrorist activities to continue, then Hong Kong will slide into a bottomless abyss.”

The remarks on Monday came after heightened violence on Sunday, with tense clashes between protesters and police in Tsim Sha Tsui, Sham Shui Po, Wan Chai and Kwai Chung, including the first instance of police firing tear gas in an enclosed MTR station, in Kwai Fong. Protesters fought back with bricks and petrol bombs, in a continuation of their hit-and-run strategy.

Shocking scenes of police violence on Sunday marked the tenth week of anti-government protests in the city that were sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill which would allow criminal suspects to be sent to jurisdictions including mainland China.

More than 5,000 black-clad demonstrators flooded into the Hong Kong International Airport on Monday afternoon for a fourth successive day, causing all flights out of the city from early evening to be cancelled. Demonstrators were angered by reports that a female protester could lose an eye after she was reportedly hit with a beanbag round during a protest.

Yang also said on Monday that Hong Kong had reached a "critical moment”, urging people to stand up and reject illegal behaviour and the actions of "violent radicals”, which he described as the city’s most pressing goal.

The short HKMAO press conference was its third such briefing on the protests – and the third since Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred from Britain to China in 1997. Last week, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the office, warned at a Shenzhen seminar that the city had reached its "most serious situation” since the city’s handover to China.

In a separate briefing on Monday, police acknowledged that officers had disguised themselves to capture "core radical protesters”, and said around 700 people had been arrested in the protests since June.

Protesters also held their own afternoon press briefing on Monday, with masked representatives slamming police handling of the protests on Sunday and reiterating their five key demands – including officially withdrawing the extradition bill, an independent investigation of police use of force, and universal suffrage. "Hong Kong has just seen its darkest weekend in its contemporary history,” one of the representatives said. "Hong Kong turned into a torture field overnight.”

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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