HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's security minister on Wednesday warned that the city's protests against China's anti-virus restrictions were a “rudiment of another color revolution” and urged residents not to participate in activities that might hurt national security.
Chris Tang said some events on university campuses and the city's streets had attempted to incite others to target China's central government in the name of commemorating a deadly fire in the country's far west last week.
“This is not a coincidence but highly organized,” he told reporters at the legislature.
Protests erupted in major mainland cities over the weekend after the blaze that killed at least 10 in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, prompted angry questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by COVID restrictions.
Crowds angered by severe restrictions called for leader Xi Jinping to step down in the biggest show of public dissent in decades.
Smaller protests also emerged at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Hong Kong, and Central over the past two days. The participants included mainland Chinese students and residents as well as locals. They held up white papers and chanted slogans such as “No PCR tests but freedom!” and “Oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves!”
The gatherings were the biggest in the city in more than a year under rules imposed by Beijing to crush a pro-democracy movement in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, which has a separate legal system from the mainland.
Tang alleged that some active members of the widespread rallies in 2019 also took part in the latest Hong Kong events, noting some people planned the recent protests via social media platforms including some “anti-China” sites.
“I have previously mentioned that we face national security risks. Some people are unwilling to give up and always want to endanger our national security and Hong Kong's security. This is exactly the situation I am talking about,” he said.
He said the city has to guard against these risks if residents do not want to return to what happened in 2019.
The 2019 protests were sparked by a since-withdraw extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics worried the suspects would disappear into China’s opaque and frequently abusive legal system. Opposition morphed into months of violent unrest in the city as the protesters' demands widened to include universal suffrage and other democratic aspirations.