China said recent violence in Hong Kong protests was the “creation of the U.S.,” for the first time laying direct blame on Washington as their dispute over the unrest escalates.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remark at a news briefing Tuesday in response to comments by U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The top American diplomat had said Monday that he hoped “the Chinese will do the right thing” in managing the protests in Hong Kong.
“It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Hua said, referring to Pompeo’s previous role at the intelligence agency. “He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”
The comments show the U.S.-China strains over Hong Kong are increasing, even as the two sides resume trade talks in Shanghai. Last week, Hua urged Washington to remove its “black hand” from the protests, a comment that the State Department dismissed as “ridiculous.”
Beijing has long attributed unrest in Hong Kong and other regions under its control to unspecified foreign forces, with the U.S. and the U.K. as the most obvious targets. Those complaints have increased in recent weeks as American and European governments and companies issue statements urging China to respect the rights of Hong Kong protesters critical of the government in the former British colony.
Pompeo is due to arrive in the region Wednesday to attend Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Bangkok, where he may cross paths with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Tying the U.S. to the unrest could serve several purposes for Beijing, including discrediting the protesters, rallying mainland sentiment against them and potentially justifying more direct intervention. China’s top government agency overseeing the city on Monday reiterated that preventing Hong Kong from becoming a “base to undermine China” was one of its three “bottom lines.”
Pompeo was paraphrasing similar commentsby President Donald Trump while answering a question at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., about how the U.S. would respond if China sent in the military to quell the unrest. Hong Kong is still reeling from a weekend of protest in which police fired tear gas at protesters, some of whom threw bricks and carried sticks.
In her remarks Tuesday, Hua noted that some demonstrators looked American and waved U.S. flags.
“In the media footage of the violent protests, many U.S. faces appeared among the protesters, even U.S. national flags at one point, Hua said. “What role does the U.S. play exactly in the recent Hong Kong protests? The U.S. owes the world an explanation on this matter.”
Harvey Sernovitz, a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong, said last week that the protests were rooted in the concerns of the city’s residents. “The ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong reflect the sentiment of the people of Hong Kong and their broad concerns about the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” Sernovitz said