China Urges U.S. to Remove ‘Black Hand’ From Hong Kong Protests

China said the U.S. should remove its “black hand” from Hong Kong’s protests, in some of its most pointed criticism yet against what it says is American interference in the city’s affairs.

There are “signs of foreign forces behind the protests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday in Beijing. “I wonder if these U.S. officials can truthfully answer to the world the role the U.S. has played in recent events in Hong Kong.”

Her comments came after the U.S. State Department on Monday said attacks on protesters and other bystanders by criminal gangs was “particularly disturbing,” according to a Voice of America report. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had blamed the “black hand” of Western forces for stirring up trouble in Hong Kong last month, without singling out the U.S.

“This is a ridiculous statement,” Harvey Sernovitz, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, said Wednesday. “The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong reflect the sentiment of the people of Hong Kong and their broad concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Foreign forces

Beijing has long attributed unrest in Hong Kong and other regions under its control to unspecified foreign forces, with the U.S. and the U.K. as the most obvious targets. Those complaints have increased in recent weeks as American and European governments issue statements urging China to respect the rights of Hong Kong protesters critical of the government in the former British colony.

China has leveled increasingly blunt criticism against U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo — with the foreign ministry accusing him of “lies and fallacies” last month — but so far spared President Donald Trump. Hua offered a more measured response Tuesday in response to a question about Trump’s comment Monday that President Xi Jinping has “acted responsibly” in Hong Kong protests and that China could stop the protests “if they wanted.”

“Please trust that China’s central government and the Hong Kong government will work for the benefits of our people and we’re always doing the right thing,” Hua said.

A rally of more than 100,000 people in Hong Kong devolved into a night of violence on Sunday, with police firing tear gas after protesters gathered in front of China’s liaison office in the city and defaced the national emblem. Masked men wearing white shirts and wielding batons, some suspected to be linked to triads, later attacked people in a metro station and mall in the mainland border town.

Sunday’s gathering at the liaison office drew the harshest rebuke yet from Beijing, which said protesters had undermined Chinese sovereignty and were testing its “bottom line.” The Chinese government has maintained support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government since her now-suspended proposal to allow extraditions to the mainland drew hundreds of thousands of protesters to the street last month.

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