'Not supported by foreign forces': Critics dispute China's claim Hong Kong protests fuelled by West
China's top policy office blamed political crisis on 'irresponsible people' in the West
A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist is firing back at the Chinese government's accusation the ongoing political crisis is fuelled by Western forces, calling it "absurd" and a tactic used to "stigmatize our movement."
"It is very ridiculous that every time Hong Kong has a protest, the Chinese side will accuse that we are funded or supported by foreign forces," said Nathan Law, a longtime activist in Hong Kong and founder of the pro-independence political party Demosisto.
"The truth is, I'm not supported by foreign forces. ... And I do believe every single Hong Kong citizen is coming out because they care about the city. They want political reform and their basic human rights," he told The Current's guest host Laura Lynch.
The Chinese government took a hardline approach to the mass demonstrations on Monday, pledging in an unprecedented news conference that Beijing will not allow any challenge to China's authority or threats to national security sparked by Western forces.
Without naming a specific nation, the country's top policy office blamed the political crisis on "irresponsible people" in the West, who aim to stir up trouble "in order to contain China's development."
Louisa Lim, a former NPR and BBC correspondent based in Beijing, believes the Communist Party is repeating history when it tries to pin the Hong Kong resistance on Western ideology.
"It's really a line out of the Tiananmen playbook that trouble is caused by hostile foreign forces stirring up unrest," said Lim, who is also a senior lecturer at the Centre for Advocacy and Journalism at the University of Melbourne.
"In the case of Hong Kong, to make this kind of argument really ignores the basic demands that people are asking for."
Hong Kong has been rattled by two months of escalating pro-democracy protests, which have stoked political dissent with the territory's leader, Carrie Lam, for not responding to a series of demands, including her resignation.
Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Cabinet's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, which has cabinet-level authority over the territory, condemned the demonstrations as "horrendous incidents" and backed Lam, as well as police, for "fearlessly sticking to their posts and fulfilling their duties against all odds."
He urged Hong Kong authorities to "do what needs to be done" to halt future clashes.
This is the first time the Chinese government's upper brass has formally addressed the Hong Kong protests since the crisis began, and one of the only times Beijing authorities have commented on the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. That promise of a high degree of autonomy has since been questioned with many in Hong Kong saying that Beijing has tightened its grip in recent years.
The eighth consecutive weekend of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong took another violent turn as police repeatedly launched tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back pro-democracy protesters. At least 49 people have been arrested in connection with Sunday's protest, which left about two dozen injured.
Law said police used "far more" riot-control firearms over the weekend than had ever been previously deployed during other clashes.
"It was quite brutal," he continued. "It was just like a battlefield."
The escalating political crisis in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory erupted early last month in opposition to the now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people accused of a serious criminal offence to be sent to mainland China to face trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. Lam has not offered any timetable or plan to revisit the legislation, but critics have warned if it goes forth, the legal rights of suspects would be threatened.
Lam has reluctantly promised the extradition bill is "dead" in order to "restore calmness to society," but so far has refused to scrap it entirely.
Most recently, dissent has pivoted toward the police who have been accused of using excessive force against protesters. The movement's demands now include calls for Lam's resignation, full democracy and an independent inquiry into police brutality during the conflict.
So far, Lam has refused to accede to any of the requests.
"Until the Hong Kong government starts to address those political demands, it's very hard to see any solution in sight," said Lim.
"This is primarily a political problem that requires a political solution."
Written by Amara McLaughlin, with files from Reuters and The Associated Press. Produced by Allie Jaynes, Imogen Birchard and Ines Colabrese.