China state media blames Hong Kong protests on 'lawlessness'

Protesters react to a tear gas during a demonstration against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong, China June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Protests in Hong Kong over planned new extradition laws with China are “hammering” the city’s reputation, with outbreaks of “lawlessness” undermining rule of law, Chinese state media said in editorials published on Thursday.

Hong Kong riot police and protesters braced for possible further clashes on Thursday after a day of violence over the extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray in a series of skirmishes to clear demonstrators from around the city’s legislature. It was some of the worst violence in Hong Kong since Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.

The Hong Kong Hospital Authority said 72 people had been hospitalized by 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

The English-language China Daily said the new amendments were in line with international conventions but “the opposition camp and its foreign masters seem willing to oppose it for their own purposes at the expense of the city’s rule of law, public safety and justice.”

“It is lawlessness that will hurt Hong Kong, not the proposed amendments to its fugitive law,” it said.

The state-owned tabloid The Global Times blamed “radical opposition forces” and “the Western forces behind them” for hyping up and politicizing the amendments.

“Playing with uncontrolled street politics is to push Hong Kong to backwardness and disturbance,” it said. “This is not a wise direction for Hong Kong.”

Hong Kong has been rocked by three nights of violence since a protest on Sunday drew what organizers said was more than a million people.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry