Hong Kong (CNN)China’s President Xi Jinping has called for an end to violence in Hong Kong, in strongly worded comments that coincide with the second protest related death in a week in the semi-autonomous city.
The Asian financial hub has been gripped by a renewed spate
of violent unrest in recent days, following the death of a 22-year-old student who fell near the scene of demonstrations last Friday
. Protesters have clashed with riot police at multiple locations, paralyzing much of the territory and forcing citywide school cancellations.
In his remarks Thursday, Xi pledged his support for the city’s police authorities and its embattled leader Carrie Lam”in severely punishing the violent criminals in accordance with the law.” The rare comments by Xi came just hours before a 70-year-old man who was struck by a brick during clashes between protesters and their opponents died of his injuries.
Earlier in the week, a protester was shot by police and a man was set on fire following a dispute with protesters. A 15-year-old boy who was struck on the head by what is believed to be a tear gas canister is also in critical condition, according to Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Hong Kong Police spokesperson Tse Chun-Chung said that police were in “reactive mode” and if the protesters didn’t commit violent acts, authorities wouldn’t have to respond.
“Hong Kong has become very sick over the past 5 months. I cannot imagine what our future looks like,” he said.
The violence has since spread to other countries. According to the government, Hong Kong’s secretary for justice, Teresa Cheng, was injured in the UK capital on Thursday after she was surrounded by a protesters.
“The secretary immediately made a report to the London police and requested the police to take the case seriously and put the culprits to justice,” the government said.
On Thursday, China’s top state-run television channel issued an online editorial telling protesters their actions are “undisguised terrorism.”
“We have had enough talking, persuasion and warnings. To stop the unrest has to be implemented and advanced more resolutely now. The country will never accept the situation to be out of control, justice to be covered or Hong Kong to be sunk,” the editorial from CCTV read.
It echoed an editorial in the state-run tabloid Global Times suggesting the People’s Armed Police and the People’s Liberation Army were ready to back up Hong Kong’s government “when necessary.”
“We also warn the radical protesters: You are on the edge of doom. Those who are coerced to be ‘valiant’ should walk away as soon as possible when you still can make the call,” the editorial said.
However, it is not clear if Beijing has a red line, and what it would take for protesters to cross it before provoking a Chinese military response.
A report by an influential US congressional advisory body released Thursday warned there would be consequences
if the Chinese government put military boots on the ground in the city.
The US China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), which is responsible for monitoring US-China relations from a security perspective, made a number of Hong Kong proposals in its annual report in light of what it described as the city’s “historic 2019 protest movement.”
In the event of a military intervention, the report recommended that the 1992 US Hong Kong Policy Act be suspended, which would remove the city’s special trading status.