China’s ambassador to the UK has blamed protesters in Hong Kong for the violence that saw one of them shot by a police officer.
Police in Hong Kong have been criticised for how they have handled the protests but Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the UK since 2009, told Sky News that the fault lay with the protesters.
He told Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan: “We strongly condemn the violence of rioters.
“This violence has been going on for several months – they challenge the bottom line of one country two systems, they challenge the rule of law in the country.”
Two people are in a critical condition in hospital and 51 others were injured as demonstrations turned violent in the semi-autonomous territory on Tuesday.
One of those critical cases is an 18-year-old protester who was shot at close range by police, with the force saying the officer had feared for his life.
The protests began in June as a reaction to a now-abandoned bill that would have seen those suspected of crimes in Hong Kong facing extradition to China but the campaign has widened to encompass general anti-China feeling in the city, as residents fear their freedoms are being eroded.
Mr Liu said: “You have to separate peaceful demonstration from violent rioters.”
When challenged further he asked what the response would be from British police in the face of similar violence.
When Murnaghan replied that most police in Britain were not armed, the ambassador replied: “No, I don’t think so, I don’t think so.”
However, Mr Liu was optimistic that recent efforts by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam to hear from “various sectors” and “engage in sincerity” would see an improvement in the situation.
“We acknowledge there are some basic deep-seated problems like housing, opportunities for young people but demonstrations, violence, offer no solution to these deep seated problems.”
Mr Liu also denied that China was mistreating its mainly-Muslim minority Uighurs.
Last week a European security source told Sky News that footage posted online apparently showing hundreds of blindfolded and shackled Uighur prisoners is believed to be authentic.
Human rights organisations accuse China of mass internment, intrusive surveillance and political indoctrination of the group – a charge Beijing strongly denies.
Mr Liu said: “It’s not a prison camp, we call it education training centre. The measures taken are for the prevention of terrorism.”
When shown the footage of people being marched blindfolded by police, he said: “That’s a different story – this is the transfer of inmates. I know the media pick up some clips but this is nothing to do with the education training centre.
“The measures were taken exactly for the safety of the majority of the Xinjiang people…to prevent terrorism.”
When asked if people were free to leave once they had been “educated”, he said: “Yes, of course.”
In July nearly two dozen countries signed a joint letter to the United Nations calling on China to end the mass detention of Uighur people.
Sky News has also tried to find Uighur children placed in state-run orphanages and so-called kindergartens but have not been able to see their parents for years.