BEIJING (AP) – China has dismissed Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters as clowns and criminals while bemoaning growing violence surrounding the monthslong demonstrations.
That’s partly out of concern that protesters’ demands for expanded democracy could inspire like-minded officials and intellectuals on the mainland.
Still, experts say, China shows no signs of preparing for a major crackdown, content to ignore the protests in the hopes that violence will turn Hong Kong’s silent majority against the movement.
The protests also come at a sensitive time for President Xi Jinping, who after removing term limits last year effectively made himself leader for life. That has intensified criticism over his concentration of power even as his propaganda machine relentlessly promotes his achievements ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1.