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China tells U.S. to back off as Hong Kong violence escalates

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Image: Anti-government protesters gather at the Central District in Hong Ko
A riot police officer scuffles with an anti-government protester in Hong Kong's Central District on Wednesday. -
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Athit Perawongmetha
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Hong Kong's demonstrations brought unprecedented violence to the former British colony this week, as clashes between police and protesters paralyzed the city's transportation networks and closed universities and businesses.Authorities have also adopted an increasingly strident tone in response to the months of unrest, while also telling the U.S. to back off criticizing Beijing's handling of the crisis."We urge the U.S. to clearly assess the situation and pull back before it's too late," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang told a briefing after the State Department urged Beijing to keep its promises on Hong Kong's rights. "The U.S. side must immediately stop pushing the relevant bills, stop supporting violent offenses, and stop using Hong Kong to interfere in China's domestic affairs."The House of Representatives passed a bill in October supporting the protesters. This must go to a vote by the Senate before it can be sent to President Donald Trump.

A riot police officer scuffles with an anti-government protester in Hong Kong\'s Central District on Wednesday.
A riot police officer scuffles with an anti-government protester in Hong Kong\'s Central District on Wednesday.Athit Perawongmetha

The streets of the semi-autonomous region have been mired in escalating clashes. Officers have fired teargas and fired rubber bullets, arresting hundreds of the demonstrators this week alone.On Monday, a police officer shot a demonstrator in the chest at close range, and protesters doused a man in gasoline and set him alight. Both were being treated in hospital, authorities said.On Tuesday, police that "the violence has reached a deadly level" and that the city is on the "brink of total breakdown."Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam has branded the demonstrators "enemies" of the people. China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong accused them of "blatant terrorism," according to Chinese state media.Wednesday was the third day that hundreds of protesters have effectively shut down the city's main business district. All schools were closed for the day and some demonstrators were camped at barricades on university campuses after a night of clashes with police.Riot police tried to disperse the crowds near the stock exchange, wrestling some people to the ground and beating others with batons. The mask-wearing anti-government protesters have been throwing bricks, Molotov cocktails and even using bows and arrows during the pitched battles in the streetsThey are angry at police brutality and perceived meddling from China, which controls Hong Kong but is supposed to allow it certain democratic and economic freedoms.The windows of fashion store Georgio Armani were scrawled with the words, "It's now 1989 4th June," a reference to the crackdown by Chinese troops on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Police detain a man during a flash mob to block roads in Central on Wednesday.
Police detain a man during a flash mob to block roads in Central on Wednesday.Dale De La Rey

The clashes have spread to university campuses, with demonstrators and police battling through Tuesday night and returning to their barricades as day broke.Demonstrations were initially against a proposed law that would allow criminals to be extradited to China, something the protesters feared would be used to draw people into Beijing's legal system.But they have since expanded to cover a range of issues, from police brutality and democratic reforms to the sky-high prices of apartment rentals in the city.Hong Kong used to be a British colony but was given back to China in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" policy. This meant that although Hong Kong was part of China it would enjoy other democratic and economic freedoms not afforded to the rest of the mainland.China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries including Britain and the United States for stirring up trouble.

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