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China calls Hong Kong protesters a ‘virus’, says city won’t be calm until they’re removed

Click to play video 'Hong Kong police detain democracy activists in raids' Hong Kong police detain democracy activists in raids
WATCH: (April 18) Hong Kong police arrested 15 activists, including veteran politicians, a publishing tycoon and senior barristers, in raids on Saturday in the biggest crackdown on the city's pro-democracy movement since the outbreak of mass protests last year. – Apr 18, 2020

China’s Hong Kong affairs office on Wednesday condemned Hong Kong protesters as a “political virus” who seek independence, warning that the city will never be calm unless “black-clad violent protesters” were all removed.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office warned that China’s central government will not sit idly by “with this recklessly demented force in place” and that China’s central government has the greatest responsibility in maintaining order and safeguarding national security.

READ MORE: Hong Kong protests gain steam as China’s coronavirus infections dwindle

“The scorched-earth action of the black-clad violent protesters is a political virus in Hong Kong society and a big enemy to ‘one-country-two-systems’,” the office said in a statement on Wednesday.

“As long as the protesters are not removed, Hong Kong will never be calm,” it said.

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The Asian financial hub was rocked in 2019 by months of massive, and sometimes violent, political protests after an attempt to introduce an extradition bill to mainland China.

Many young protesters dressed in black fought running battles with Hong Kong police.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong locals, expatriates return to city, quarantine in hotels amid COVID-19 pandemic' Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong locals, expatriates return to city, quarantine in hotels amid COVID-19 pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Hong Kong locals, expatriates return to city, quarantine in hotels amid COVID-19 pandemic – Apr 7, 2020

Protesters said Beijing was seeking to erode the “one country, two systems” style of governance that guarantees broad freedoms for Hong Kong since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing rejects criticism that it is seeking to encroach on the city’s much-cherished freedoms.

Hong Kong riot police dispersed a crowd of 300 pro-democracy activists, some wearing black, late last month — the first sizable protest since the government imposed a ban on public meetings at the end of March to curb coronavirus infections.

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READ MORE: Hong Kong protesters dispersed by police amid COVID-19 outbreak

Political tensions have risen after 15 pro-democracy activists were arrested in April.

Hong Kong’s economy recorded in the first quarter its deepest annual contraction since at least 1974, as the coronavirus pandemic dealt a heavy blow to business activity, already in decline following the anti-government protests.

Click to play video 'Hong Kong protesters pop champagne after police officer diagnosed with COVID-19' Hong Kong protesters pop champagne after police officer diagnosed with COVID-19
Hong Kong protesters pop champagne after police officer diagnosed with COVID-19 – Feb 21, 2020

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs said that while there were many factors contributing to Hong Kong’s economic woes, the main problem was anti-government protests.

“Hong Kong’s biggest trouble comes from within, that is the violent forces openly calling for and engaging in ‘lanchao’,” said the office, referring to a tactic of dragging all of society in a scorched-earth manner.

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(Reporting by Huizhong Wu, Yew Lun Tian and Se Young Lee; Editing by Tom Hogue and Michael Perry)