China: Hong Kong facing 'most severe situation' since British rule

China: Hong Kong facing 'most severe situation' since British rule
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A Chinese official on Wednesday called ongoing protests in Hong Kong the “most severe situation” since the British relinquished control of the city in 1997, according to The Associated Press.

The demonstrations, which began earlier in the summer in response to a bill that would allow the extradition of some Hong Kong residents to China, are having “an increasingly broad impact on society,” Zhang Xiaoming, the head of Beijing’s Cabinet office responsible for Hong Kong, said at a seminar in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

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“It can be said that Hong Kong is facing the most severe situation it has faced since the handover,” Zhang said, according to the AP.

The terms of the handover established “one country, two systems,” with significantly fewer economic and political restrictions in Hong Kong than in mainland China. Despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam's announcement that the controversial bill was “dead,” the protests have continued due in part to concerns about the erosion of the city’s autonomy under Lam.

China has yet to actively intervene against the demonstrations but has been increasingly vocal against them in recent weeks, accusing the U.S. of masterminding them after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Senate Judiciary Committee requests consultation with admin on refugee admissions State Department's top arms control official leaving MORE expressed hope the Chinese would “do the right thing” in response.

On Tuesday, Beijing escalated its rhetoric, calling the organizers of the protests “criminals” who are pushing Hong Kong to a “dangerous abyss.”

At a ceremony Wednesday marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Lam assured Beijing of her cooperation, according to the AP.

“The special administrative region government will certainly join with all of you to deal with it calmly, restore social order, safeguard rule of law and cherish Hong Kong, cherish ‘one country, two systems,’ and cherish our home,” she said.

Protesters continue to call for both Lam’s resignation and an independent investigation into police brutality against demonstrations.

“We all know this administration has become completely untrustworthy and this is just so sad for Hong Kong,” Claudia Mo, a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, told the AP.