‘I can’t breathe’: China spokesperson quotes George Floyd to US official on Hong Kong

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China’s official spokesperson has responded to US criticism over its controversial security bill in Hong Kong by quoting George Floyd, the African American man whose death at the hands of a white police officer has sparked protests and looting in major cities across the US.

Morgan Ortagus, the official spokesperson for the United States Department of State, said that China has “fragrantly broken its promises to the people of Hong Kong” in a tweet on Saturday, referring to a new Chinese security law that critics say removes Hong Kong’s current autonomy from Beijing.

The law has been interpreted as China imposing its security laws onto Hong Kong, where mass pro-democracy demonstrations against the imposition of Chinese rule took place throughout 2019.

Referring to the law, Ortagus tweeted: “This is a pivotal moment for the world. It will go down in history. Freedom loving people around the world must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist Party, which has flagrantly broken its promises to the people of Hong Kong.”

In response, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying tweeted just the quote “I can’t breathe.”

Chunying followed up with a second tweet linking to a Russia Today report on the current protests in looting in the US, quoting the title of the report: “THUGS & HEROES HYPOCRISY.”

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Clashes in US, criticism of China internationally

The US has been gripped by protests and looting, including some violent clashes, since Thursday.

Protesters have chanted “I can’t breathe” in homage to Floyd’s last words, who was killed in Minneapolis by officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes.

In some cities, protests have turned violent as protesters blocked traffic and clashed with riot police.

Meanwhile, the US, UK, Australia and Canada continue to criticize China for passing a security law that they say will erode political freedom in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo notified Congress on Wednesday that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China after China moved to impose security laws on the city.

The UK, which ruled Hong Kong until 1997, has also criticized the move.

“We are not going to turn a blind eye, we are not going to look away from our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday.

He had previously said that the UK could open up the path to citizenship for up to 300,000 Hong Kong holders of British National Overseas passports.