The Latest: China envoy says reporting on protests distorted
HONG KONG (AP) — Latest on the protests in Hong Kong over proposed extradition legislation (all times local):
The Chinese ambassador to Britain has accused news media of distorting their reports about Hong Kong protests against a wildly unpopular extradition bill, insisting that the territory’s authorities initiated the proposed legal change, not Beijing.
In an interview with the BBC, Liu Xiaoming said “the whole story has been distorted” by media including the BBC. “You portrayed the story as the Hong Kong government made this amendment on the instruction of the Beijing government. As a matter of fact, Beijing — the central government — gave no instruction, no order about the making of this amendment.”
Liu added that China is upholding the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong is semi-autonomous and that the system has been successful.
Hong Kong protesters have staged massive demonstrations against the extradition bill, which would allow suspects to be tried in mainland Chinese courts. The proposal has triggered the most serious political crisis in the city in decades.
Hong Kong protesters are singing hymns and holding up signs criticizing police violence a day after street clashes left dozens injured.
The protesters stood for hours Thursday on a downtown pedestrian bridge, singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord,” and holding signs that read, “No violence against HK people” and “Stop shooting.”
Most appeared to be students. Some but not all were wearing face masks, perhaps to obscure their identities after authorities warned protesters might be risking trouble over their activities.
Elsewhere, a few dozen people gathered outside the U.S. Consulate, shouting to protest criticism from some U.S. officials over police actions against the protesters.
Hong Kong’s police commissioner defended the use of tear gas and rubber bullets in the confrontations Wednesday outside the city’s government headquarters, saying officers had sought to avoid conflict.
Hong Kong’s police commissioner says 11 protesters were arrested and 22 officers injured in demonstrations against a proposed extradition law that at times turned violent.
Stephen Lo Wai-chung said those arrested were accused of disorderly conduct and crimes related to rioting, likely adding to complaints that the government is using such charges to intimidate political opponents and deter further protests.
Lo said police sought to provide space for protesters to express their opposition to the proposed legal changes that would make it easier to send suspects to China. But he said officers needed to use forceful measures after protesters threw items at them.
Police said they used tear gas, pepper spray and anti-riot guns that can cause serious injuries.
China’s government says it supports Hong Kong authorities’ handling of massive protests against an extradition bill after police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on largely peaceful demonstrators.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Thursday the protests in Hong Kong are “not a peaceful rally, but a blatant, organized riot.”
He added that “no civilized society ruled by law will tolerate illegal actions that undermine peace and tranquility.”
Geng also said that China condemns “interference” by the European Union in China’s internal affairs. The EU released a statement saying rights “need to be respected” in Hong Kong and “restraint should be exercised by all sides.”
Opponents of the extradition bill fear it would subject people in Hong Kong to vague charges and unfair trials in mainland China.
Hong Kong’s hospital management body says public hospitals in the city were treating 79 people for protest-related injuries as of 11 a.m. Thursday morning.
A statement from the Hospital Authority said 56 of the injured were male and 23 were female. The figures included both civilians and police officers.
Hong Kong’s legislature suspended meetings Thursday following clashes between police and protesters who oppose a bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Police officers fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators on Wednesday.
Taiwan’s leader says the protests in Hong Kong this week show that the “one country, two systems” framework under which the territory returned to China cannot work.
President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters Thursday that the Hong Kong government should listen to its people and not rush to pass the legislation that sparked the protests.
Hong Kong is a former British colony that was returned to China under a “one country, two systems” arrangement under which it received semi-autonomy and greater freedoms than mainland China.
China wants Taiwan to reunite with the mainland under a similar framework.
Tsai said the protests show the arrangement cannot work.
A Hong Kong legislator says young people there have lost faith in the police force and their government following violent clashes with protesters opposed to legal changes that could see accused suspects sent to China for trial.
Labor Party Vice Chairman Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung told The Associated Press that the relationship between citizens and the authorities “has been completely deteriorated.”
Cheung said Thursday, “We’ve seen (the police) use extreme forces which are not proportional to the demonstration.”
Officers used tear gas, pepper spray and anti-riot guns that can cause serious injuries. Cheung said the widespread use by protesters of facemasks and their unwillingness to be identified by name was understandable given the authorities’ growing tendency to file heavy charges for seemingly mild public disorder offenses.
Encrypted messaging app Telegram says it was hit by a powerful cyberattack that has coincided with massive protests in Hong Kong.
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov tweeted Thursday that the attack came from mostly Chinese IP addresses.
He says: “Historically, all state actor-sized (attacks) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception.”
Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in recent days to protest an extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China to stand trial. Activists in both Hong Kong and mainland China, where Telegram is blocked, frequently use the messaging system to organize protests in hopes of evading government surveillance.
Telegram says the attack merely affects connectivity and no data has been compromised.
A Hong Kong Legislative Council official says no time has been set aside for debate on a highly controversial extradition law that has drawn large-scale protests.
The announcement Thursday from council official Cicely Wong appeared to show the impact of Wednesday’s street demonstrations, along with statements of concern from foreign governments, business associations and the legal profession. Those voices have joined with human rights and supporters of the free press who have long warned of growing restrictions on civil rights in the former British colony that returned to Chines rule in 2019.
Traffic was restored in the city the day after the clashes between police and protesters who oppose the legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China where they could face unfair trials on political charges.
After days of silence, Chinese state media is characterizing the largely peaceful demonstrations in Hong Kong as a “riot” and accusing protesters of “violent acts.”
Hundreds of thousands of people filled streets in Hong Kong in recent days to oppose proposed legislation that would allow crime suspects to be extradited to mainland China, where critics say they would be subject to vague charges and unfair trials.
In an editorial featuring a photo of a bloodied officer, the state-run China Daily said Wednesday evening that protesters are using the bill “to tarnish the image of the government.”
Xinhua state news agency said protesters used “sharpened iron poles” and bricks against police.
Police officers fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets at demonstrators Wednesday. About 70 people were hurt.
Traffic has been restored in the heart of Hong Kong a day after clashes between police and protesters who oppose legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Heavy rain Thursday morning kept fresh protests from following those Wednesday by thousands of activists who shut down government headquarters and the Legislative Council on the day it was to debate the extradition bill. More than 70 people were hurt.
Police fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets after well-organized protesters breached their cordon, forcing the assembly to postpone the debate.
Protesters said they were seeking to block the passage of the legislation they see as part of Beijing’s moves to tighten its grip over the former British colony.