On August 15, the commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Xie Feng, accused opposition protesters and “violent extremists” of attempting to overthrow the government.
Xie said the protest movement, which arose in response to proposed amendments to Hong Kong’s extradition law [that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to China], was an attempt to undermine the “one country, two systems” model giving the region a large degree of autonomy.
The commissioner also accused some countries of “grossly” interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, referencing threats of canceling Hong Kong’s economic and trade privileges and sanctions against SAR officials.
Xie was referring to the proposed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, a U.S. congressional resolution which, among other things, would require the Secretary of State to determine (on an annual basis) “whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous to justify special treatment by the United States for bilateral agreements and programs.”
Xie then continued attacking what he considered “groundless accusations” lobbed at Chinese authorities.
"They have told blatant lies, applauded violence as 'a beautiful sight to behold', made unfounded allegations against the Hong Kong police, groundlessly accused Beijing of 'encroaching on Hong Kong people's autonomy and freedom'," he said.
Regarding the alleged statements in support of violence, Xie repeated comments made by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has provided her support to the proposed human rights and democracy act. But Pelosi’s “beautiful sight to behold” remarks were not made in reference to clashes that have accompanied the Hong Kong protests.
After being shown a picture of a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Square, where tens of thousands of people had peacefully gathered to pay their respects to the victims of the Tianamen Square massacre, Pelosi said:
“It is a beautiful sight to behold and I commend the courage of the people there for speaking out in light of China’s actions in Hong Kong these days…”
As for Beijing “encroaching on Hong Kong people's autonomy and freedom'," it is not clear what Xie was referencing. However, in a 2017 State Department report the Chinese central government’s alleged “encroachment on the SAR’s autonomy” was counted among the “the most significant human rights issues” facing Hong Kong.
That dispute was in part sparked by an interpretation of Hong Kong Basic Law, which underpins the relationship between Hong Kong and the central government.
The Basic Law carries with it provisions that guarantee Hong Kong residents human rights and freedom of speech, assembly and association.
In November 2016, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee — China’s top legislative body — voted unanimously on an interpretation of the basic law that disqualified two pro-independence legislators from Hong Kong’s Legislative council for making anti-Chinese statements while taking their oaths of office.
A report issued by an advisory body to the U.S. Congress at that time accused Beijing of taking “additional steps toward undermining Hong Kong’s legal autonomy.”
The following year, the lawmakers’ bid for reinstatement was rejected by Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal.
Xie also accused certain western politicians of frequently meeting with “radical activists calling for so-called ‘Hong Kong independence’," likely in reference to a US diplomat who publicly met with members of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
A pro-Beijing newspaper responded by leaking personal information about that diplomat, including the names of their children, prompting U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus on August 8 to liken Beijing’s behavior to that of a “thuggish regime.”
On August 9, Ortagus tweeted: “Chinese authorities know full well, our accredited consular personnel are just doing their jobs, just like diplomats from every other country."
She added: “Foreign diplomats in the United States, including Chinese ones, enjoy open access to all elements of American politics, civil society, academia, and business.”
While some aspects of Xie’s comments are open to debate, Polygraph.info finds his characterization of Pelosi’s comment to be false.