China Slams Hong Kong Democracy Movement as 'Political Virus'

hongkong-protest.jpg A security officer holds a sign reminding people to observe social distancing, as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, during a protest by pro-democracy supporters in the town of Shatin in Hong Kong, May 1, 2020.

China on Wednesday stepped up its use of anti-terrorism rhetoric regarding the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, calling it a "political virus" and a "dark, destructive force."

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) under China's cabinet, the State Council, hit out at the city's black-clad protesters for returning to streets and malls amid a lull in the coronavirus epidemic.

"No sooner did the epidemic slow, than these black-clad thugs were out on the streets holding illegal gatherings, harassing businesses and throwing petrol bombs," a HKMAO spokesman said in a statement posted to its official website.

"The biggest scourge of Hong Kong comes from within, namely, the dark, destructive forces ... [who have] trampled the rule of law, disrupted public order, smashed and stolen public and private property, endangered people's lives, and done heavy damage to Hong Kong's economy and international image," the statement said.

The spokesman blamed "tyrannical forces and their behind-the-scenes commanders" for orchestrating the protest movement, which began with mass, peaceful opposition to plans by chief executive Carrie Lam to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China, and broadened into calls for full democracy and greater accountability, including an inquiry into police violence.

He said the aim of the protest movement was to "resist the central government's total control over Hong Kong, and seeking full autonomy in the guise of a high degree of autonomy, turning Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity."

Meanwhile, Hong Kong people are still "confused" by the protests, and had sympathy and understanding for the protesters, he said.

"These dark, violent forces ... are political viruses ... that will not be eradicated in the space of a single day," the spokesman said.

He called on Hong Kong's institutions and officials to take firm action to "stamp out this evil."

Pro-democracy lawmaker Andrew Wan said the HKMAO statement was "ridiculous," as it had failed to take into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Hong Kong's economy, and sought to blame protesters instead.

"The pandemic ... has led to economic shutdowns around the world and yet the HKMAO thinks it was the so-called dark, destructive forces, which is funny," Wan said.

"What protests took part during the pandemic, I'd like to ask him?" Wan said. "It seems that he is living in a time warp."

Official 'virus' talk raises eyebrows

Plans by Carrie Lam to allow the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to face trial in mainland China sparked mass street protests beginning in June 2019, soon followed by widespread public anger at police use of force against peaceful demonstrators and demands for fully democratic elections.

Lam has since formally withdrawn the hated amendments to the city's extradition laws, but has stopped short of meeting protesters' demands for an amnesty for arrestees, an independent public inquiry into police violence and abuse of power, an end to the description of protesters as "rioters," and fully democratic elections.

Frontline protesters, eyewitnesses, journalists and human rights groups have repeatedly said that the majority of violence during the protests has originated with the Hong Kong police, who have been widely criticized for the excessive use of tear gas, water cannon and pepper spray, as well as both non-lethal and live ammunition weapons, on unarmed protesters.

Medical personnel and rights groups have also slammed the handcuffing and arrests of voluntary medical staff, including nurses and doctors, during the siege of the Polytechnic University by riot police in November 2019.

References to citizens of China from regions whose populations are ambivalent about Beijing's rule as infected by a “virus” have a precedent among recent Chinese official statements.

In a recorded lecture released in October 2017, the Communist Party Youth League of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) defended the region’s then relatively unknown but expanding network of mass internment camps believed to hold up to 1.8 million Uyghurs for re-education.

“That is why they must be admitted to a re-education hospital in time to treat and cleanse the virus from their brain and restore their normal mind,” said the statement, revealed by RFA in August 2018, as the camp issue began to gain international attention, drawing comparisons to 1930s concentration camps.

Citing the XUAR camp system, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last month added China to its list of  “historical cases of genocide and other atrocities, places where mass atrocities are currently underway or populations are under threat, and areas where early warning signs call for concern and preventive action.”

Reported by Man Hoi-tsan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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