China has condemned the recent anti-government protests in Hong Kong as “horrendous incidents” that have caused “serious damage to the rule of law”.
“We hope that… people will stand firm in defence of the rule of law,” a spokesman for the government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said.
Hong Kong has seen eight consecutive weekends of anti-government and pro-democracy protests.
There were violent clashes over the weekend between police and protesters.
In a rare statement the spokesman condemned “the evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements” in Hong Kong.
“We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation,” he said.
As a former British colony, Hong Kong has its own legal and judicial systems, and has been promised “a high degree of autonomy” from the Chinese government, except in foreign and defence affairs.
How did we get here?
Demonstrations began when the Hong Kong government introduced a controversial bill that would have enabled extraditions to mainland China.
It sparked huge protests as critics feared the bill would undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms, and be used to target political activists.
The row intensified as police were accused of using excessive force on anti-extradition bill protesters.
Tensions increased further last Sunday, when suspected triad members descended on a subway station in Yuen Long, beating protesters, passersby and journalists with sticks.
Demonstrators accused the police of colluding with the triads – claims denied by the police.
The authorities say they have arrested 12 people over the attack, including nine men with links to triads.
The anti-extradition protests have morphed into a broader movement.
While the government has paused work on the extradition bill, protesters now want it withdrawn completely, as well as an independent inquiry into police violence, and democratic reform.
They want the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, who is not directly elected by voters and whose handling of the crisis has been widely criticised, to resign.
Some protesters have also expressed their anger at the mainland Chinese government, which they say has been eroding freedoms in Hong Kong.