One of the Chinese regime’s top agencies issued a veiled threat that a more severe crackdown against Hong Kong protesters could take place in two weeks.
The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, China’s head legal agency, in an opinion article published on its social media WeChat account on Sept. 1, accused the protesters of engaging in “terrorist acts” during the protests on Aug. 31.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the afternoon on Aug. 31, defying a police ban. That evening, skirmishes between protesters and police spread into the subway, where police charged into train cars in an attempt to arrest protesters. Footage showed images of people being beaten by riot police as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas.
The article warned that protesters couldn’t “get away” simply by “covering up their faces.” It suggested that they would meet their fate “on the day of the full moon.” It then warned protesters to take notice that the Asian holiday the Mid-Autumn Festival—which falls on the full moon on Sept. 13 this year—is just days away.
The commentary continued that the presence of American flags in a march earlier in the day as “evidence of foreign interference.”
The Chinese regime has repeatedly resorted to rhetoric accusing foreign governments, particularly the United States and the U.K., of “fomenting unrest” in Hong Kong. Beijing has also labeled the protesters as “radicals.”
For more than three months, masses Hongkongers have filled the streets calling for the Hong Kong government to fully withdraw a now suspended extradition bill.
Many fear that the bill would erode Hong Kong’s autonomy, as it would allow anyone in Hong Kong to be transferred to China for trial in courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party—which is notorious for using its judicial system to silence critics and punish dissidents.
Protesters have repeatedly urged the international community, particularly the British and the U.S. governments, to safeguard their human rights in the face of increasing instances of police violence against protesters—which have been condemned by rights organizations such as British non-profit Hong Kong Watch.
The peaceful march on Aug. 31 descended into clashes between protesters and police in the evening. Protesters allegedly threw petrol bombs and bricks, while police fired round after round of tear gas and deployed water cannons.
One of the clashes took place inside the Prince Edward Station, a metro station located in Mong Kok, a popular shopping district. Online videos showed that police officers pepper spraying and beating passengers. Some protesters could be seen shielding themselves with umbrellas, while one man was on his knees imploring the police to stop.
News report of MTR station assault by the police. You can see multiple times in this 52 seconds of video that police uses force to people not resisting at all, including those who got beaten up in the train, and got sprayed tear liquid after the beating. pic.twitter.com/jGqFTxX9Mb
— LO Kin-hei 羅健熙 (@lokinhei) August 31, 2019
— H₂OMIE (@MalwareHomie) August 31, 2019
Hong Kong Watch, in a Facebook post, condemned the police for what happened at the metro station, saying that “Hong Kong Police authorities owe an explanation to Hong Kong people and the international community.”
U.S. congressman on Aug. 31 called for the immediate release of people detained on “politically motivated charges” and for Hong Kong authorities to stop the use of excessive force against protesters.
Over Aug. 29 to Aug. 30, police arrested several prominent pro-democracy activists and lawmakers, on charges relating to unlawful assembly during previous protests.
“Beijing’s refusal to give Hong Kong Authorities the latitude to respond to Hong Kongers’ concerns has exacerbated tensions. We call upon China’s leadership to reconsider this decision,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the leading Republican on the committee, in a joint statement.
“Compromise will be necessary to defuse tensions and restore peace to this great city,” they added.
Hong Kong police have arrested nearly 900 people in connection with the protests since June.