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Hong Kong protests

From Brazil, Xi backs Hong Kong police and slams 'violent criminals'

Stronger tone comes as US panel recommends sanctions in case of armed intervention

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a session at the BRICS summit in Brasilia on Nov. 14.   © Reuters

BEIJING/WASHINGTON -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday denounced the unrest in Hong Kong as actions committed by "violent criminals" and pledged support for the city's police, striking a more strident tone on the protests on an international stage.

Hong Kong's most pressing task remains to bring violence and chaos to an end and restore order, Xi said while at the BRICS summit in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese government will "firmly support the Hong Kong police in strictly enforcing the law, and firmly support the Hong Kong judicial bodies in severely punishing the violent criminals in accordance with the law," Xi said, giving no hints of a willingness to compromise with the demonstrators.

He last mentioned the Hong Kong protests in public when meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Nov. 4. The shift in language suggests that top Chinese leaders feel an impending threat from the demonstrations.

The continuous violence seriously tramples on the rule of law and the social order, and seriously disturbs Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, Xi said at the BRICS summit. The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released Thursday a report recommending that Congress enact legislation to suspend preferential treatment for Hong Kong if China deploys forces for armed intervention there.

"Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory, distinct from mainland China, is under pressure," according to the annual report.

"Despite millions of demonstrators -- spanning ages, religions, and professions -- taking to the streets in largely peaceful protest, the Lam Administration continues to align itself with Beijing and only conceded to one of the five protester demands," it said.

Xi signaled resistance to any international pressure in support of the demonstrators. The Chinese government has unswerving determination to oppose any external force in interfering in Hong Kong's affairs, he said.

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