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China Lashes Out at Taiwan for HK Offer08/19 06:10

   HONG KONG (AP) -- China lashed out at Taiwan on Monday over its offer of 
political asylum to participants in Hong Kong's pro-democracy protest movement, 
a day after hundreds of thousands of people marched peacefully in the latest 
massive demonstration in the Chinese territory.

   The government of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers its own 
territory, strongly supports the protests, and Hong Kong students in Taiwan 
held events over the weekend expressing their backing. Taiwan's president made 
the asylum offer last month, though it's not clear if requests have been 
received.

   Taiwan lacks a formal legal mechanism for assessing and granting asylum 
requests, although it has granted residency to several vocal opponents of the 
Chinese government.

   On Monday, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs 
Office, said Taiwan's offer would "cover up the crimes of a small group of 
violent militants" and encourage their "audacity in harming Hong Kong and turn 
Taiwan into a "heaven for ducking the law."

   Ma demanded that Taiwan's government "cease undermining the rule of law" in 
Hong Kong, cease interfering in its affairs and not "condone criminals."

   Organizers said at least 1.7 million people participated in Sunday's Hong 
Kong rally and march, although the police estimate was far lower. Police said 
the protest was "generally peaceful" but accused a large group of people of 
"breaching public peace" afterward by occupying a major thoroughfare and using 
slingshots to shoot "hard objects" at government headquarters and pointing 
lasers at police officers.

   The protests have at times been marked by violent clashes with police, who 
say they have arrested more than 700 participants since the demonstrations 
started in June. However, law enforcement officers kept a low profile Sunday, 
with no riot police seen from the procession's main routes. When stragglers 
convened outside a government complex in the late evening, other protesters 
urged them to go home.

   More protests are planned for the coming weeks, with various rallies 
organized by accountants, transport workers, high school students and relatives 
of police officers.

   Demonstrators' frustrations over what they perceive to be the government's 
refusal to respond to their demands boiled over last week with the occupation 
of Hong Kong's international airport, during which a reporter for a Chinese 
Communist Party-owned newspaper was assaulted, and attacks on a number of 
police stations.

   A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Beijing in 1997 under the 
framework of "one country, two systems," which promised residents certain 
democratic rights not afforded to people in mainland China. But some Hong 
Kongers have accused the Communist Party-ruled central government of eroding 
their freedoms in recent years.

   The protest movement's demands include the resignation of Hong Kong leader 
Carrie Lam, democratic elections and an independent investigation into police 
use of force.

   Asked Sunday about the situation in Hong Kong, U.S. President Donald Trump 
said the use of Chinese troops to put down the protests --- similar to the 
bloody crackdown on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989 --- would 
worsen the current U.S.-China trade dispute.

   "I mean if it's another Tiananmen Square, I think it's a very hard thing to 
do if there is violence," Trump told reporters in New Jersey. "I think there'd 
be tremendous political sentiment not to do something."

   Trump had originally said the protests were a matter for China to handle but 
has since suggested that Chinese President Xi Jinping could resolve the 
situation by meeting with protest leaders.

   Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang avoided commenting on Trump's 
remarks directly, but referred to the president's previous statements on the 
protests.

   "We have noticed that President Trump has previously stated that Hong Kong 
is part of China, and that they must solve it themselves and do not need 
advice. We hope that the U.S. side can match its acts to its words," Geng told 
reporters at a daily briefing.

   China has furiously rejected all outside calls for it to discuss protesters' 
demands.

   Members of China's paramilitary People's Armed Police force have been 
training for days across the border in Shenzhen, including on Sunday morning, 
fueling speculation that they could be sent in to suppress the protests. The 
Hong Kong police, however, have said they are capable of handling the 
demonstrations.


(KR)

 
 
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