China’s foreign minister has denounced months of pro-democracy unrest in Hong Kong as “violence pure and simple”, accusing foreign forces and the international media of fuelling the political crisis.
The comments, in an exclusive interview with AFP, were the most direct condemnation from a top Chinese official of the protests that erupted five months ago and have seen millions of people take to the streets calling for greater democracy.
“What is happening in Hong Kong today are in no way peaceful protests,” Wang Yi said during the interview with AFP during a trip to Paris on Monday.
“It’s violence pure and simple. These are unacceptable acts in any country,” he added.
Hong Kong has been riven by seething protests for the past 20 weeks, with violence spiralling on both sides of the ideological divide.
While huge crowds have regularly marched peacefully, clashes have repeatedly broken out between smaller groups of hardcore protesters and riot police.
China has run Hong Kong under a special “one country, two systems” model, which allows the city liberties not seen on the mainland, since the financial hub’s handover from the British in 1997. But public anger has been building for years over fears that Beijing has begun eroding those freedoms, especially since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
This summer’s protests were initially sparked by opposition to a now-scrapped proposal to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China. They quickly snowballed into a wider anti-government movement after Beijing and local leaders in Hong Kong took a hard line.