China stepped up criticism of the continuing protests in Hong Kong at a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, calling demonstrators “radical protesters” and referring to students as “riot fighters”, as activist Joshua Wong took the pro-democracy campaign to Germany.
Hong Kong’s pro-China Federation of Women chief Pansy Ho Chiu-king sharply criticised the ongoing protests at theUN Human Rights Council meeting.
Since June, she said, “Hong Kong people have been plagued” with protests, many of which she said ended in “unprovoked violence and unlawful acts”.
“An alarming rate of young children are running away from home to become frontline riot fighters, radicalised to perpetrate criminal acts,” she said.
Ho did not address the violent police action against unarmed demonstrators and bystanders, many of whom ended up with serious injuries.
Millions have taken to Hong Kong’s streets over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule since the city reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong met German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, prompting the Chinese government to summon the country’s envoy to Beijing.
“The ambassador was summoned in Beijing by the foreign ministry,” China’s ambassador to Germany Wu Ken told reporters, without giving details.
“What I can say is how big the disappointment is on the Chinese side, and we protest very strongly. This incident will have a very negative impact on the bilateral relationship”.
Wu accused “some radicals” of using democracy as a mask to hide their “separatist intentions”.
China has regularly accused “external forces” of being behind the unrest in Hong Kong.
Wong, 22, had arrived late on Monday in the German capital, where he met Maas at an event hosted by the daily newspaper Bild – a meeting China branded “disrespectful”.
Speaking earlier on Wednesday at a news conference, Wong denied being a separatist, saying he simply wanted free elections for the former British colony – a promise enshrined in the 1997 handover agreement between the United Kingdom and China.
Hong Kong is the new Berlin, the young activist said, alluding to the German capital’s divided past where protesters brought down the Wall separating a communist East and a democratic West.
“Three decades ago, no one expected the Soviet Union would fall. No one predicted the Berlin Wall will fall. With our pressure and determination, we just hope to let the world (be) aware that the Hong Kong people deserve democracy.
“Some brand me as a separatist. But just let me make it clear: Hong Kong is asking for election system reform. We just hope to elect our own government. We just hope to elect the chief executive of Hong Kong,” he told journalists in Berlin.
China has repeatedly warned it would not tolerate any move towards independence for Hong Kong, threatening to crack down hard on any “separatist” groups.
Wong pointed to pledges made in the Hong Kong handover agreement.
“Before 1997, Beijing promised to let the Hong Kong people enjoy the right of free election … so we will continue our fight until the day we enjoy democracy,” he said.
The 1997 agreement guaranteed the territory certain levels of autonomy and freedoms unseen on the Chinese mainland.
That “one country, two systems” status persists, but there are increasing concerns about Beijing policies in the city, with accusations it is trying to muzzle criticism and keep opponents out of the territory’s legislature.
‘Human rights and freedom’
Wong was in Germany on the heels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to China, where she stressed on Friday that the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong “must be guaranteed”.
Addressing the German parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said she pointed out during her trip that human rights were “indispensable for us”.
Wong acknowledged that China’s economic might may make world leaders hesitate about speaking out forcefully in favour of the protesters.
But he stressed that “we’re not seeking any world leaders or any countries to interfere in Hong Kong’s process but it’s a must for the free world to support Hong Kong’s democratisation”.
Statements are not enough, he said, urging concrete action from the West.
Germany and other European countries should require a human rights clause included in any trade deals with China, while Washington should pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement, he added.
Wong will travel to the United States on Friday, where he will seek “bipartisan support” for his cause.
In Hong Kong itself, meanwhile, protesters adopted a new tactic on Wednesday night, belting out their protest song Glory to Hong Kong karaoke-style at a number of shopping malls in the city.