Unrest in Hong Kong has “seriously challenged” the “one country, two systems” principle governing the semi-autonomous city, China’s President Xi Jinping said in comments reported by Chinese state media.
Pro-democracy protesters choked the city with barricades and rallies for a fourth straight day on Thursday, days after police shot a protester with a live round and a man expressing pro-Beijing views was set on fire.
Xi said Beijing “firmly supports” Hong Kong’s government and police and “stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order is currently Hong Kong’s most urgent task”, the People’s Daily reported.
Recent actions by protesters have “seriously challenged the baseline principle of ‘one country, two systems'”, Xi said in rare comments on the violence in Hong Kong at a summit of BRICS countries in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.
Protests have rocked Hong Kong for nearly six months.
Initially focused on opposition to a proposed extradition law, protesters’ demands have evolved into broader calls for democracy and investigations into police violence.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” policy that gives the territory rights unseen on the mainland – freedoms protesters say are being steadily eroded by Beijing.
Clashes between protesters and police escalated after the recent death of a student who succumbed to head injuries sustained during a fall as police skirmished with demonstrators inside a car park.