China has blamed “local radical separatist organizations” for the clashes that erupted in Hong Kong this week, with state media warning that actions of the groups have damaged social stability in the city.
A foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday that the protests in Mong Kok were “organized by certain local radical separatist organizations”, and that the police “took effective measures” to quell the violence.
Police acted “in a professional manner with restraint and in accordance with the law,” spokesman Hong Lei said, adding that Beijing firmly supports the Hong Kong government and the police.
Xinhua news agency, meanwhile, said in an editorial that Hong Kong’s tourist industry, economy and image will suffer due to the violence in Mong Kok that began on Monday night.
“When the respect for law and the peaceful and rational forms of expression are discarded, it is imaginable that… social stability has been damaged,” the editorial added.
Global Times, another state media outlet, said hawkers were not the protagonists in this week’s clashes in Hong Kong.
The hawkers were merely actors pushed into the spotlight by others, the paper said, accusing radical political groups of staging the violence.
Monday’s clashes between protesters and police came as authorities were trying to clear unlicensed food stalls from the streets, a Hong Kong tradition during the Lunar New Year holidays.
Localists — activists who advocate more autonomy for the city — and other young people were on the front line to protect the hawkers from eviction.
The protests quickly degenerated into violence, with the demonstrators throwing various objects at the police who responded with batons and pepper spray.
More than a hundred people, including several police officers, were injured in the clashes.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying termed the Mong Kok clashes as a “riot” while many observers and media outlets have described them as “violent clashes” or “disturbance”.
Hong Kong Indigenous, a so-called localist group, was in the forefront of the campaign to stand in solidarity with street hawkers.
The group had in the past staged several protests over issues such as parallel trading activities, but it had never called for Hong Kong independence.
Beijing rarely uses “local radical separatist organizations” to describe Hong Kong protesters.
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