China Says It Will Counterattack US Over Hong Kong Curbs

Paramilitary police guard Tiananmen Gate at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (AP photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

BEIJING (AFP) — Beijing warned Washington on Monday of retaliation after President Trump announced restrictions on Chinese students in the United States in protest against a new national security law in Hong Kong.

China also said ongoing unrest in the U.S. highlighted its severe problems of racism and police violence, and exposed Washington’s double standards in supporting Hong Kong’s protesters.

The two sides have clashed repeatedly on different topics and on Friday Trump said he would restrict Chinese graduate students and start reversing the special status enjoyed by semiautonomous Hong Kong in customs and other areas.

Beijing reacted angrily to the moves, calling them “detrimental to both sides.”

“Any words and actions that harm the interests of China will be met with counterattacks on the Chinese side,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news briefing Monday.

He said that Washington’s measures “seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine U.S.-China relations.”

China’s rubber-stamp parliament on Thursday approved the plans for the law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security — and allow Chinese security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.

The move followed seven months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.

It was condemned by pro-democracy activists and Western nations as another attempt to erode the city’s freedoms.

Hong Kong police on Monday banned an the Thursday vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary, citing the coronavirus pandemic, the first time the gathering has been halted in three decades.

The candlelight June 4 vigil usually attracts huge crowds and is the only place on Chinese soil where such a major commemoration of the anniversary is still allowed.

In Beijing, Zhao also seized on a week of antiracism protests in the United States to accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy, calling racism “a chronic disease of American society.”

Washington’s response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police was a “textbook example of its world-famous double standards,” Zhao said.

“Why does the U.S. lionize the so-called Hong Kong independence and black violence elements as heroes and activists, while calling people who protest against racism ‘rioters’?” Zhao asked.

The U.S. Department of Defense said that around 5,000 National Guard troops had been mobilized in 15 states and Washington, D.C., with another 2,000 on standby, as violence swept the country last weekend.

Beijing has long been infuriated by criticism from Western governments — especially the United States — over its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying took aim at Washington on Saturday.

“I can’t breathe,” she said on Twitter, with a screenshot of a tweet by State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus that criticized China’s policy in Hong Kong.


by BEITI SEOW and JING XUAN TENG
© Agence France-Presse

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