China needles US over George Floyd protests after Hong Kong riots

David Child
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a protest in Denver, Colorado, on May 31, 2020, over the death of George Floyd: AFP via Getty Images

China has seized on coverage of the mass protests sweeping throughout the United States, accusing Washington of hypocrisy over its response to Hong Kong demonstrations.

The demonstrations in the US were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died a week ago after he was pinned at the neck by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

Picking up on scenes of the violent unrest which have swept the nation since, China’s foreign ministry and state media fired back at US President Donald Trump, whose administration has given vocal support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Foreign Minister spokesman Lijan Zhao on Monday urged the US to end racial discrimination in the country and take all necessary measures to deal with the violent law enforcement of police, according to a report by the state-backed China Global Television Network.

Zhao also told a press conference that the death of Mr Floyd reflected the "severity of racial discrimination and policy brutality in the US".

His comments came after foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Sunday posted “I can’t breathe” - Mr Floyd’s last words - in response to a Tweet by a US State Department spokeswoman urging people to stand against China's Communist Party over its treatment of Hong Kong.

State media also weighed in on the unrest unfolding in the US, which has prompted the deployment of National Guard troops in 15 states and authorities to impose curfews on dozens of cities.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the pro-Beijing Global Times newspaper, on Saturday wrote that the "beautiful sight" of Hong Kong protests referred to by US politicians had now extended to the US.

"Now they can witness it by their home windows," he added in a post on Twitter.

He also suggested in a separate Tweet on Sunday that Hong Kong protesters were “obviously” behind the American demonstrations, without providing any evidence for the claim.

His newspaper's Twitter account meanwhile shared footage from the US protests, including a clip which showed a police car ramming a group of demonstrators accompanied by the caption "Peacekeepers or mass murderers?"

The war of words came after China's leaders recently moved to impose sweeping new national security legislation on Hong Kong, a major international financial hub.

Mr Trump announced on Friday that he will start to end preferential treatment for Hong Kong in trade and travel in response to Beijing's move, which he described as a "tragedy".

A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" framework, which guaranteed the territory rights and freedoms absent in mainland China.

The semi-autonomous territory was engulfed by protests last year over a controversial extradition bill.

The new security bill, which would outlaw undermining of Beijing's authority in Hong Kong, and could also see China installing its own security agencies in the territory for the first time, has meanwhile sparked renewed demonstrations.

Beijing has repeatedly blamed “foreign forces”, including the US for inciting the protest movement.