China’s Hong Kong Affairs office on Wednesday condemned Hong Kong protesters as a “political virus”, warning the territory would never be calm until the protesters were removed.
In a statement, the office described the protesters as violent people who wanted independence for Hong Kong. It said Beijing would not sit by “with this demented force in place” and stressed China’s greatest responsibility was in maintaining order and safeguarding national security.
After weeks of coronavirus restrictions, groups of protesters have begun to re-emerge, resuming a campaign that began a year ago after the government tried to push through a now-dropped bill that would have allowed people to be sent for trial in mainland China. The arrests last month of some of the territory’s most prominent democracy campaigners has also added new momentum to the protests.
Organisers are planning a march on Sunday in what could become the first significant demonstration since the coronavirus outbreak. Although protesters do not expect to get permission for the rally many young people have said they will attend as social-distancing controls have been relaxed.
On Tuesday, China-aligned Hong Kong politicians led by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa launched the Hong Kong Coalition, calling for the adherence to “one country, two systems”, the framework that was put in place when the then-British colony was returned to China in 1997 and is supposed to provide for freedoms not seen elsewhere in China.
Global Times, China’s state-run tabloid, said the coalition had 1,545 members from “all walks of life” and the coalition’s goal was “to get Hong Kong moving again by reinvigorating the economy and restoring the rule of law to boost investors’ and law enforcers’ confidence in the city.”
The group will work with the Hong Kong government, it said. Its first major campaign will be distributing face masks in 18 districts of the territory on Sunday and Monday.
Al Jazeera and news agencies