The protests across the U.S. over George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minneapolis have coincided with rising U.S. tensions with . That tension has been fueled most recently by Beijing's hugely controversial move to impose , but China is using the mass protests roiling the U.S. to troll Washington, and demand the Trump administration mind its own business.
China's criticism of President Trump has come from every angle — from the central government in Beijing; from Hong Kong and even from Washington D.C., where Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai blamed the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year for forcing Beijing's hand to move ahead with the new security law. But it was China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying who referenced the death of George Floyd in a tweet. She replied to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus' Twitter criticism over Hong Kong with just three words: "I can't breathe."
"I can't breathe." pic.twitter.com/UXHgXMT0lk
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) May 30, 2020
Those were the words Floyd was heard saying as a police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, and the message from Beijing was clear: The Trump administration should worry more about the mass protests sweeping the U.S. before criticizing China for what it's doing in Hong Kong.
China is using the protests to point out what it calls American "hypocrisy."
"Racism against ethnic minorities in the U.S. is a chronic disease of American society," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing, adding: "The current situation reflects once more the severity of the problems of racism and police violence in the U.S." But protests have also returned to the streets of Hong Kong in recent weeks over the new security laws. Thousands of people have turned out in the former British colony, met by riot police using water cannon and pepper balls to quash the demonstrations. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested.
If and when the new legislation is officially enacted, the new laws will ban subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. But many Hong Kongers are afraid Beijing will twist the interpretation of the laws to chip away at their freedoms of speech, press, assembly and Hong Kong's independent judicial system.
Those freedoms — non-existent on mainland China — were enshrined in an agreement signed by both the U.K. and China when Hong Kong was handed back to Beijing in 1997, and they're meant to remain in place until 2047.
But a new development on Monday night will fuel fears that those rights are at risk, and likely fuel the protests along with them: Hong Kong's police force has objected to the annual Tiananmen Square vigil in the city, set for this week.
It will be the first time since Beijing's June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing that Hong Kongers will not be allowed hold a mass vigil marking the solemn date.
Officials say a vigil would run against social distancing rules in place amid the coronavirus pandemic.