Hong Kong police arrest 12 after violent incident near legislature
China escalating war of words with Britain over perceived interference
Hong Kong police said on Wednesday they had arrested 12 people in connection with incidents on July 1, although it was unclear if they were among protesters who smashed their way into the city's legislature and ransacked the building.
In recent weeks, Hong Kong has been beset by public protests against the government's handling of a now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people in the city, with its cherished tradition of judicial independence, to be sent to stand trial in China, where courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.
Monday's unprecedented siege and brief occupation of the Legislative Council, or Legco, took the demonstrations to a new and dangerous level on a symbolic day — the July 1 anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China from Britain.
In a brief statement, police said the 11 men and one woman, all between the ages of 14 and 36, who were arrested in connection with violence on July 1 had been linked to episodes that took place in the morning. The attack on the legislature did not begin to unfold until the afternoon.
Charges included "possession of offensive weapons, unlawful assembly, assaulting a police officer, [and] obstructing a police officer."
Five men and one woman were also arrested "for offences including possession of offensive weapons, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, common assault and fighting in a public place" for various incidents on June 30, police said.
Earlier, police said eight people suspected of disclosing officers' private information online and making threats against them had been arrested.
It was not immediately made clear if those eight were related to the anti-extradition protests, but police have been a target of criticism after using rubber bullets, beanbag rounds and tear gas last month to try to disperse crowds.
China, Britain trade barbs
China has stepped up a war of words with Hong Kong's former colonial ruler following the mass protests. On Wednesday, it scolded Britain for interfering in Hong Kong and warned the main contender vying to replace Prime Minister Theresa May that there would be consequences unless he stopped meddling in Chinese internal affairs.
"The U.K. government chose to stand on the wrong side: it has made inappropriate remarks not only to interfere in internal affairs of Hong Kong but also to back up the violent law-breakers," China's ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said.
"I would like to reiterate that Hong Kong is China's special administrative region; it is not what it used to be under British colonial rule," Liu told reporters in English.
When asked about comments on Hong Kong by Boris Johnson, the front-runner to succeed May, Liu said he hoped a new British government would refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs.
"So long as the British government, so long as the new British prime minister will follow this principle, I do not see there is any problem in the relationship," he said.
"But as long as these principles are violated, there will be a problem in the relationship," he added.
Johnson told Reuters on Wednesday that he backed the people of Hong Kong "every inch of the way" and cautioned China that the "one country, two systems" principle under which the territory has been governed since being handed back to China by Britain in 1997 should not be cast aside.
- An earlier version of this story said that Hong Kong police said they arrested 13 men. Police later corrected it to 12 people.Jul 03, 2019 12:38 PM ET