Top official calls Hong Kong rioters ‘radical separatists'

Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong defines rioters as ‘radical separatists’, saying they showed elements of ‘terror’ in last week’s violence triggered by authorities’ attempts to remove illegal hawkers

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protesters throw bricks as a journalist takes cover during a clash with riot police at Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, China February 9, 2016.

Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong on Sunday blamed "radical separatists” for riots that broke out last week in the Asian financial centre, the worst violence the Chinese-ruled city has seen since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Clashes emerged when protesters gathered after authorities tried to remove illegal street stalls set up for Lunar New Year celebrations in Mong Kok, a working-class neighbourhood.

More than 60 people have been arrested in connection with the violence, as some 30 have been charged with rioting.

The actions of the "radical separatists" were "leaning toward terrorism", the South China Morning Post daily quoted Zhang Xiaoming, the head of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, as saying.

"We will not [allow] this very small number of radical separatists to destroy the most precious rule of law in Hong Kong," he said.

Around 100 people were injured in the clashes, in which police fired warning shots in the air, while demonstrators hurled bricks at police and set fire to rubbish bins.

A protester (bottom) is arrested by riot police during a clash Mong Kok shopping district, Hon Kong, China early February 9, 2016.

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying on Sunday said that the rioters only represented a small minority in the city, the South China Morning Post reported.

The battles have been called the "fishball revolution" after a favourite Hong Kong street snack and reflect underlying tensions over the erosion of the city's traditions.

Demonstrators included "localist" activists who call for a greater Hong Kong autonomy and even independence from China.

Mong Kok, was the scene of some of the worst violence during the 79-day "Occupy" pro-democracy street protests in late 2014.

The mass rallies seeking fully free leadership elections in the city blocked some major streets for more than two months. But the rallies failed to win concessions from the authorities.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

TRTWorld and agencies