China on Monday vowed a severe response to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who confronted police and shut down the international airport, saying the demonstrators were engaging in “terrorist activities.”
“This type of violent criminal activity must be resolutely combated according to the law, with no hesitation or mercy,” stated China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office spokesman, Yang Guang, according to state media.
Hong Kong has been roiled by protests throughout the summer, originally sparked by outrage over an extradition law that Hong Kong residents say would allow Chinese authorities to effectively “kidnap” them on little evidence. The concern over the law soon ballooned into fear that China plans to throw out its “One Country, Two Systems” policy regarding Hong Kong.
Over the weekend, about 5,000 protesters swarmed Hong Kong International Airport, causing the major travel hub to shut down and cancel all flights.
“If we allow these types of terrorist activities to continue, then Hong Kong will slide into a bottomless abyss,” China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said.
China has accused the U.S. of inciting the protests.
“The U.S. has been making various Hong Kong-related accusations that are wanton, fact-distorting, and inflammatory,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “Some senior U.S. politicians and diplomatic officials met and engaged with anti-China rabble-rousers in Hong Kong, criticized China unreasonably, propped up violent and illegal activities, and undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
VIEW GALLERY: Hong Kong Airport Protest
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed that charge, warning China that “the world is watching.”
“The people of Hong Kong are bravely standing up to the Chinese Communist Party as Beijing tries to encroach on their autonomy and freedom,” McConnell wrote on Twitter. “Any violent crackdown would be completely unacceptable.”
President Trump, who is trying to broker a trade deal with China, was criticized for calling the protests “riots,” a characterization Beijing has embraced.
“Societies are best served when diverse political views are respected and can be freely and peacefully expressed,” a White House spokesman said. “The United States urges all sides to refrain from violence.”