As sustained, significant mass protests continue to rock Hong Kong, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said his office intends to “resolutely punish violent crimes according to law” and “restore social stability.”

The protests that began about eight weeks ago are the largest to strikingly challenge Beijing’s authority since 1997, the year the United Kingdom handed over its former colony to the Chinese government. Some of the gatherings have drawn an estimated 2 million people to the streets.

At the time, it was determined China and Hong Kong would create a “one country, two systems” setup. Hong Kong is supposed to have its own legal and judicial systems that work independently from the Chinese government except in matters of foreign and defense affairs.

HKMAO spokesman Yang Guang made the remarks at a news briefing, the office’s first of its kind since 1997.

“In our view, the most dangerous situation in Hong Kong is that violent crimes have not been effectively stopped,” he said, as he also condemned what he referred to as “evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements.” In addition, the office said “irresponsible figures in Western countries” were at fault in the escalating tensions.

The Guardian reports:

The last eight weeks of protests were sparked by a now delayed bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China, but most recently the anger has pivoted towards the police, who have been accused of using excessive force.

Protesters have also focused their ire on what many believe to be collusion between the authorities and triads, Hong Kong’s organised crime groups, after masked and armed thugs conducted vicious attacks on metro commuters, protesters and journalists on 21 July.

At the press conference on Monday the Hong Kong office said “rumours” of police or Chinese involvement in the attacks were “unfounded and insulting.”

Echoing statements previously made by state-owned media and other Beijing officials, the spokesman also sharply criticised foreign “interference,” blaming western politicians for trying to cause trouble in the country.

Hours before the briefing on Monday, the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist party, called on the Hong Kong government and police to “not hesitate” and “do what needs to be done” to end the weeks of protest.

“For some time, the power of the Hong Kong police has been severely limited by politics, public opinion, and even the judicial environment,” said one editorial, describing protesters as “thugs” and “militants” who have undermined stability in Hong Kong.

Last weekend, police fired rubber-coated rounds and tear gas as thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in various parts of Hong Kong. Most of the gatherings were nonviolent, but according to Al Jazeera, some protesters lobbed bricks, improvised weapons and glass as riot police went into the crowds Sunday.

In addition to scrapping the extradition-to-China bill, demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam, direct elections for a new leader and an independent inquiry into the police force used against protesters.



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