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Hong Kong protests

China blames US for fanning flames of Hong Kong protests

Beijing threatens military intervention as key leadership conclave approaches

A protester waves a U.S. flag outside Kwai Chung police station in Hong Kong on July 30.   © AP

BEIJING -- China's top diplomat has said the U.S. and other western nations were behind the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, as President Xi Jinping faces growing pressure at home to contain the situation and to take a tougher line on Washington.

The U.S. "arranged for senior officials to meet leading anti-China figures and supported the illegal activities of extreme, violent protesters with the aim of undermining the prosperity and security of Hong Kong," Yang Jiechi, a member of China's Politburo, told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

"We strongly urge the U.S. and some other Western governments to abide by international law and basic norms of international relations, adhere to their commitment not to interfere in Hong Kong affairs," he said in an interview published Thursday.

The U.S. has voiced support several times for Hong Kong protests, which were triggered by an extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland China but have expanded into anti-Beijing sentiment. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with pro-democracy leader Martin Lee in mid-May, and some demonstrators have since been seen waving American flags. Beijing worries that Washington is stoking the flames of protest in Hong Kong.

In a likely warning against protesters, the People's Liberation Army of China released a three-minute video on Wednesday showing an anti-riot drill by its Hong Kong garrison, featuring heavily armed troops repeatedly shouting: "All consequences are at your own risk."

China's hardening stance is partly a response to calls for a general strike across Hong Kong on Monday, since Xi risks losing face if the entire city shuts down. There is growing concern that the PLA could send in troops if the situation gets out of hand, ostensibly by the request of the Hong Kong government.

Xi and his leadership team will meet current and retired Communist Party leaders soon for an annual conclave at the resort town of Beidaihe, which is expected to focus on the trade war with the U.S. and the Hong Kong protests.

With U.S. President Donald Trump announcing additional tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese imports to go into effect on Sept. 1 ahead of the meeting, Xi is facing greater pressure to push back against the U.S.

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