by Helen Roxburgh
China reacted furiously on Monday to anti-government protesters vandalising the walls of the Beijing representative’s office in Hong Kong and defacing the national emblem, branding their actions “absolutely intolerable.”
Thousands of masked pro-democracy demonstrators briefly occupied the road outside the office in the semi-autonomous city Sunday night and targeted the building with eggs, projectiles, laser lights and graffiti in a stark rebuke to Beijing’s rule.
Hong Kong has been shaken by massive, sometimes violent, protests initially organised to oppose a now-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
It has now morphed into a wider and sometimes violent movement for democratic reforms.
“These (acts)… have seriously damaged the feelings of all Chinese people including seven million Hong Kong compatriots,” Wang Zhimin, China’s top envoy to the city, told reporters, calling on authorities to pursue the “rioters.”
Another unnamed official from the office said the actions of the protesters were “absolutely intolerable,” according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.
Protesters have vowed to sustain their movement until their core demands – including universal suffrage and the resignation of the city’s pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam – are met.
So far, Beijing has refused to budge. Officials and state media have accused the protesters of playing into the hands of foreign powers who seek to harm China, and backed the Hong Kong government.
Beyond agreeing to suspend the extradition bill, there have been few other concessions and fears are rising that Beijing’s patience is running out.
Radical protests have “insulted the country and the nation,” Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily declared in a front-page article.
“These acts of violence seriously undermined Hong Kong’s social order and trampled on the rule of law.”
Under the 1997 handover deal with Britain, China promised to allow Hong Kong to keep key liberties such as its independent judiciary and freedom of speech – but many say those provisions are already being curtailed.
But Beijing has reacted angrily to other governments and foreign officials expressing solidarity with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, warning them against interfering in China’s domestic affairs.
The “violence unleashed by some fanatic elements is not really against the bill to amend the extradition law… (but) to advance their own political agenda,” state-run China Daily said in an editorial.
The newspaper warned that the clashes in Hong Kong go against the views of the “silent majority”, who want to “live a peaceful life and strive to achieve their dreams rather than rack their brains over politics.”