Chinese state media are taking aim at the US government as many US cities are being gripped by raging protests, comparing the unrest with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Beijing has long been infuriated by criticism from Western capitals, especially Washington, over its handling of the pro-democracy protests that shook Hong Kong last year.
And as unrest erupted across the United States over racial inequality and police brutality after the death during arrest of an unarmed Black man, Chinese government spokespeople and official media launched attacks against US authorities.
Chinese media also circulated video clips suggesting Hong Kong police were “restrained” in comparison to actions seen in the US.
“US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once called the violent protests in Hong Kong ‘a beautiful sight to behold’. … US politicians now can enjoy this sight from their own windows,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on Saturday.
It was “as if the radical rioters in Hong Kong somehow snuck into the US and created a mess like they did last year”, he added.
China has insisted that “foreign forces” are to blame for the turmoil in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters – described by Beijing as rioters – have marched in the millions since June last year and often clashed with the police.
Beijing sparked outrage and concern earlier this month with a plan to impose a law on Hong Kong that it said was needed to protect national security and curb “terrorism”, but was condemned by pro-democracy activists and Western nations as another attempt to chip away at the city’s unique freedoms.
Following US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would strip Hong Kong of its special privileges, a commentary published on Sunday in China Daily – a mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party – said US politicians dreamed of “victimising” China.
“Better give up that dream and come back to reality,” it said. “Violence is spreading across the US … US politicians should do their jobs and help solve problems in the US, instead of trying to create new problems and troubles in other countries.”
The back-and-forth over Hong Kong has exacerbated US-China tensions, which were already high over several issues – including trade and the coronavirus pandemic – over which Trump has accused Beijing of a lack of transparency.
As some protests turned violent in the US over the weekend, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also targeted Washington.
“I can’t breathe,” she said on Twitter, with a screenshot of a tweet by US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus that had criticised the Chinese government over its Hong Kong policy.
Hua was quoting the words George Floyd was heard saying repeatedly before his death – after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes – which sparked the current unrest in the United States.
Over the weekend, Chinese media also circulated video clips of the US violence, accompanied by the hashtag “How restrained are the Hong Kong police?” on the Twitter-like platform, Weibo.
One clip posted by the People’s Daily on Sunday compared the recent on-screen arrest of CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who was covering the unrest in the US city of Minneapolis last Friday, with scenes of Hong Kong police appearing to back away from media personnel in the city last year.
The accompanying caption said: “Reporters used their professional identities to obstruct law enforcement.”
Police in Hong Kong have been accused by rights groups of using excessive force during pro-democracy protests last year.