Official rhetoric has escalated against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong which entered their fourth week, with Chinese state media lambasting the rallies as an "independence" movement.
Similarly, Hong Kong officials took a stronger line, accusing the protesters of fomenting "purposeful" violence and of acting under the instigation of "external forces", after fresh clashes erupted in Mong Kok over the weekend. The tensions have cast a pall over talks scheduled for tomorrow between the Hong Kong government and student protesters.
A commentary in the China Daily yesterday described Occupy Central's organisers and those "controlling from behind the scenes" as conspiring to get independence for Hong Kong, by pushing "innocent" students and Hong Kongers to the front line. "What they (the organisers) want is not the democracy of election... but Hong Kong's 'self- rule', Hong Kong's 'self- determination' and even Hong Kong's 'independence'," it said.
Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang recently accused Western countries of supporting forces trying to foment a "colour revolution", a reference to uprisings elsewhere which were started to bring about regime change. Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying reaffirmed this point last night, saying that there were "external forces" involved and that this was not "entirely a domestic movement".
Speaking to local ATV station in only his second interview since the protests started on Sept 28, Mr Leung said the forces were "from different countries in different parts of the world", but declined to elaborate further. Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have joined the protests over China's restrictions on who can stand in the city's next leadership election in 2017.
The scheduled talks were meant to have a calming effect, but have instead led to fresh clashes in Mong Kok after police cleared the site there last Friday. Yesterday, the chief superintendent of the police force's public relations branch, Mr Hui Chun Tak, said "troublemakers" within the protesters' ranks had "planned" to charge police lines in Mong Kok.
Twenty-four people were injured and four arrested. Mr Hui also defended the use of batons, saying the protesters had used their umbrellas to hit officers. Separately, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing Man said there "seems to be evidence pointing to purposeful violence".
As Hong Kong counts down to the high-stakes talks, Mr Leung acknowledged in the ATV interview that he has "to do more in communicating" with the public.
This article was first published on Oct 20, 2014.
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