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Beijing backs criminal probe into ‘illegal actions’ of Hong Kong protesters

Jorge Silva, REUTERS | Policemen stand in front of graffiti on the walls of the Legislative Council, a day after protesters broke into the building in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2019

China's central government condemned on Tuesday the ransacking of Hong Kong's legislature and said it backed the city authorities to investigate the "criminal responsibility of violent offenders".

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The semi-autonomous financial hub has been thrown into crisis by weeks of massive demonstrations over a bill that would allow extraditions to the Chinese mainland.

But on Monday -- the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover to China -- anger spilled over as groups of mostly young, hardline protesters, broke into the legislative council where they hung Hong Kong's colonial-era flag and left anti-Beijing graffiti.

"These serious illegal actions trample on the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermine Hong Kong's social order and harm the fundamental interests of Hong Kong," the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, China's cabinet, said in a statement by an unnamed spokesperson.

"It is a blatant challenge to the 'one country, two systems' bottom line. We express our vehement condemnation against this," the spokesperson said.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover between colonial power Britain to China, Hong Kong is to be governed under its own laws with special rights including freedom of speech and an independent judiciary until 2047.

The statement said Beijing strongly supports Hong Kong's government and the police.

The central government "also supports the relevant agencies of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to investigate the criminal responsibility of violent offenders in accordance with the law, to restore normal social order as soon as possible, to protect the personal and property safety of the citizens, and to safeguard Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," it said.

'Beijing agents in ranks to give movement a bad name?'

Beijing infiltration?

Reporting from outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, FRANCE 24’s correspondent Charles Pellegrin said that Monday’s violence had left observers, and even protesters, with a lot of questions.

“Who were these protesters who so desperately wanted to get inside the parliament, and why was the police reaction so weak, and why did it wait so long before intervening?” he said, noting that police officers were already present in the building when the protesters entered.

“This has led quite a few protesters to think that perhaps there were Beijing agents within their ranks who were trying to give their movement a bad name.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

 

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