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Hong Kong protests were ‘riots’: Beijing

Beijing on Thursday described the mass protests against Hong Kong’s extradition bill as “riots”, and said it supported the local government’s response.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas to break up crowds on Wednesday after demonstrators — angry over legislation they say would leave people vulnerable to China’s politicised justice system — blocked roads and brought the city to a standstill.

Videos of Hong Kong police beating unarmed protesters have also sparked accusations of brutality.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Thursday said the largely peaceful protests were “an act that undermines Hong Kong’s stability.”

“What happened in the Admiralty area was not a peaceful rally, but a riot organised by a group,” he told a regular briefing.

“We support the Hong Kong government’s dealing with the situation in accordance with the law.”

Wednesday’s violence left 79 people hurt, with two in serious condition, in the worst political unrest since Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.

Police insisted the force was necessary to fend off protesters throwing bricks and metal bars.

But critics said officers used localised violence by small groups of hardcore activists to launch an unprecedented operation against the much larger mass of peaceful protesters who had taken over parts of the city on Wednesday.

Protest organisers have announced plans for another mass rally for Sunday.

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