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China condemns violent HK protests

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Demonstrations an 'undisguised challenge' to the 'one country, two systems' formula, says China

BEIJING/HONG KONG : China yesterday condemned violent protests in Hong Kong as an "undisguised challenge" to the formula under which the city is ruled, hours after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters who stormed and trashed the legislature.

A representative of China's Hong Kong Affairs Office denounced the demonstrators, who are furious about proposed legislation allowing extraditions to China, and said Beijing supports holding criminals responsible, state media said.

The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that allows freedoms not enjoyed in China, including freedom to protest and an independent judiciary.

Monday was the 22nd anniversary of the handover. Beijing denies interfering, but for many Hong Kong residents, the extradition Bill is the latest step in a relentless march towards Chinese control.

"Seriously violating the law, the act tramples the rule of law in Hong Kong, undermines social order and the fundamental interests of Hong Kong, and is an undisguised challenge to the bottom line of 'one country, two systems'," Xinhua news agency quoted a Hong Kong Affairs Office spokesman as saying.

Debris, including umbrellas, hard hats and water bottles, was among the few signs left of the mayhem that had engulfed parts of the city on Monday and overnight after protesters stormed and ransacked the Legislative Council.

Police cleared roads near the heart of the financial centre, paving the way for business to return to normal.

However, government offices, where protesters smashed computers and spray-painted "anti-extradition" and slurs against the police and government on chamber walls, were closed.

The government's executive council meeting was due to be held in Government House, officials said, while the legislature would remain closed for the next two weeks.

China has been angered by Western criticism of the events.

It rebuked US President Donald Trump for a "gross interference" in Hong Kong's affairs after he said protesters who stormed the city's legislature want democracy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the US should "not in any form support those engaged in violence and breaking the law".

"Well, they are looking for democracy and I think most people want democracy. Unfortunately, some governments don't want democracy," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

"That is what it is all about. It is all about democracy. There is nothing better."

Britain too, took a stern line. It warned China yesterday that there would be serious consequences if the Sino-British declaration on Hong Kong was not honoured.

"The UK signed an internationally binding legal agreement in 1984 that enshrines the 'one country, two systems rule', enshrines the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and we stand four square behind that agreement, four square behind the people of Hong Kong," British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said.

"There will be serious consequences if that internationally binding legal agreement were not to be honoured," he told BBC TV. - REUTERS, AFP