China’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has launched a scathing attack on the city’s protest movement, labelling it as an independence campaign to overthrow the government, and appealing to the international community to speak out against the “virus of street violence” spreading overseas. “Recent days have seen the street violence in Hong Kong imitated in other cities and countries around the globe, and the activists championing so-called ‘Hong Kong independence’ colluding with foreign separatists at a faster pace,” Xie Feng, commissioner of China’s ministry of foreign affairs office in the city, warned at a forum on Beijing’s Greater Bay Area project on Thursday. He hit out at anti-government protesters and the “black hands” behind them, calling their opposition to the now-withdrawn extradition bill merely a pretext for insurrection. The government’s campaign to bulldoze through the bill – which would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks an extradition deal – sparked a massive public backlash in June that has turned increasingly chaotic and violent over the past months . Radicals on the protest front lines have regularly blocked roads, attacked police with petrol bombs and other home-made weapons, trashed MTR stations, and vandalised businesses and banks linked to mainland interests. Police, in turn, have been accused of brutalising protesters with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Beyond the scrapping of the bill itself, the protest movement is still pushing for more demands, including amnesty for those arrested and a revival of the city’s stalled political reform process to achieve universal suffrage. Independence is not among the core demands, but separatist banners, anti-China slogans, and calls to “liberate” Hong Kong have angered Beijing. “The true motive of the opposition in Hong Kong and the foreign forces behind them is to mess up the city, overthrow the legitimate government, seize jurisdiction, and ultimately destroy ‘one country, two systems’ by turning Hong Kong into an independent or semi-independent political entity,” Xie said. “But that is nothing more than wishful thinking. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China.” Hong Kong still a top spot to do business – but will that last? He described the street violence as a “virus” deadlier than the one that caused the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic of 2003. “The virus of street violence knows no boundaries or limits. It is highly susceptible to being complicated by other viruses such as populism, separatism and extremism, developing into the tumour of terrorism,” Xie said. “From Spain to Britain to Chile, protesters are threatening to copy Hong Kong. Should the Pandora’s box of street violence be opened … human civilisation as a whole would be plunged into calamity and no country would stay immune.” The international community cannot afford to remain silent, sit idly by or gloat over the unrest in Hong Kong Xie Feng, commissioner at China’s ministry of foreign affairs in Hong Kong “The international community cannot afford to remain silent, sit idly by or gloat over the unrest in Hong Kong,” he continued, calling on the world to help maintain prosperity and stability in the city. Xie concluded his speech by expressing confidence in embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, saying Beijing was convinced order would be restored soon under her leadership. Lam, speaking at the same event, said the city’s strength in the Greater Bay Area, the national scheme to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an economic powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley, relied on the one country, two systems principle, under which the city is promised a high degree of autonomy. Describing the ongoing protests as an “unprecedented political storm”, Lam said the government had held steadfast to that principle which, together with the rule of law and the strength of its institutions, would enable it to ride out the crisis. Also speaking at the event, Somkid Jatusripitak, Thailand’s deputy prime minister, offered support for Lam, echoing Xie’s calls. He noted that similarly large protests had gripped Thailand nearly a decade ago, and damaged the country’s development for several years. He praised Lam for handling the crisis in what he described as a peaceful manner, adding that he believed law and order would be restored soon. Hong Kong unrest leaves Qantas with a US$17 million profits slump Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said independence was never one of the core demands of protesters who had strong aspirations for genuine universal suffrage instead. “The whole crisis broke out because of the complete governance failure of both Hong Kong and Beijing,” he said. “It has been their tactic to divert public attention and evade responsibility by labelling the movement as an independence campaign with foreign forces behind it.” Political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Xie’s words had toed the hawkish line of Beijing officials, which showed little room for the central government to accede to protesters’ demands.