US accuses China of ‘thuggish’ behaviour over diplomat meeting
The US state department has accused China of acting as a “thuggish regime” for “leaking” personal details of an American diplomat who met Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, as the city faces a 10th weekend of anti-government protests.
The strong response follows the publication of a social media post on Thursday by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV that showed the diplomat, identified as Julie Eadeh, meeting Mr Wong, the face of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, in the lobby of a luxury hotel earlier in the week.
It claimed she was a “black hand” behind the protests, marking an escalation of China’s claims that the protests were “the work of the US” — an argument the country’s foreign ministry spokeswoman made in July.
A pro-Beijing Hong Kong newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, which had earlier published the photograph of Ms Eadeh meeting Mr Wong and fellow pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, included a picture of a man it said was the diplomat’s husband and the names of her children.
“Releasing any of that personal information of an American diplomat is completely unacceptable, that’s not a protest, that’s what a thuggish regime does and it’s unacceptable,” said Morgan Ortagus, a state department spokeswoman.
“This is what American diplomats do every single day around the world,” Ms Ortagus said. “American diplomats meet with formal government officials, we meet with opposition protesters, not just in Hong Kong or China . . . So our diplomat was doing her job and we commend her for her work.”
The Hong Kong office of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday it had “made solemn representations, expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to senior officials from the US consulate and asked for an explanation of the meeting with what the ministry described as the city’s independence movement.
Anti-government protests, sparked by a now-suspended bill that would allow extradition of suspects to mainland China for the first time, have gripped Hong Kong for more than two months, with a general strike on Monday paralysing parts of the city’s transport network and forcing the cancellation of scores of flights at the airport.
US President Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping in July the US would tone down criticism of Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong to revive trade talks, the Financial Times reported.
Kurt Tong, the former US consul general in Hong Kong was asked to tone down critical comments in a leaving speech on July 2 on direct orders of the state department.
Protesters plan to hold a “10,000-strong welcome” at the airport’s arrivals hall starting on Friday afternoon and continuing over the weekend to spread their message to tourists visiting the city, mirroring a peaceful sit-in held in July.
Hong Kong’s Airport Authority has said the airport will operate normally, but has restricted access to the departures hall to passengers.
Further demonstrations are planned elsewhere in the territory for Saturday and Sunday.
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