A spokesman for China’s State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement Tuesday that they strongly supported the city’s government and police force and severely condemned vandalism by protesters.
“This kind of severe illegal action damages Hong Kong’s rule of law, social order and hurts Hong Kong’s fundamental interests,” the statement said.
The comments come just hours after hundreds of mostly young, masked protesters stormed the city’s legislature during demonstrations marking the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule.
Protesters destroyed portraits, computers and ceremonial displays, spray painting the walls with slogans such as “Hong Kong is not China yet.”
The partial ransacking of the governmental complex follows almost a month of increasingly heated protests against a now suspended extradition bill, which critics say could erode Hong Kong’s freedoms.
For weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have marched against the bill, leading to it being shelved though not formally withdrawn, while smaller — but still substantial — protests have clashed with police.
On Tuesday afternoon, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang issued a stern warning to any country who “interfered” in Hong Kong.
“Don’t interfere in Hong Kong’s domestic affairs in any kind of way. Don’t support those violent criminals in any form. Don’t send any misleading signals. Don’t make any wrong actions,” he said.
Geng accused countries expressing their support for the Hong Kong protesters as being “extremely hypocritical.” “If the violence which happened to the Legislative Council in Hong Kong happened in Europe or the United States, how would they deal with it?” he asked.
Coverage of the mass protests has been tightly controlled in Chinese state-media, with outlets choosing to either ignore or distort information relating to the demonstrations.
This policy appeared to shift on Tuesday, however, with numerous outlets adopting a more openly critical tone.
In an editorial titled, “Say no to mob violence,” state-owned tabloid the Global Times called for a “zero tolerance” approach to protesters.
“It is a disgrace that such a developed society could carry out this kind of reckless and savage violence that has signaled an ominous alert for the city’s future,” the editorial said.
“Chinese society is all too aware that a zero-tolerance policy is the only remedy for such destructive behavior witnessed. Otherwise, and without this policy, it would be similar to opening a Pandora’s Box, upending social disorder.”
The English-language state-owned China Daily, meanwhile, linked the unrest to Hong Kong’s failure to integrate with broader Chinese policy.
China’s state-run Chinese television broadcaster, CCTV, showed footage of the vandalism inside the Legislative Council as part of a package on the anniversary of the Hong Kong handover to China from Britain, including footage of a pro-police rally the day before.
Other outlets, meanwhile, either ignored the protests or tried to gloss over them with cheerful news from the anniversary of the handover in Hong Kong.
State media Xinhua posted to its official Twitter a picture of 5,000 Hong Kong citizens spelling out “I LOVE HK” in massive letters.