Chinese officials and state media have seized on news of the protests sweeping the US, comparing the widespread unrest to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and accusing Washington of hypocrisy. Mass protests spread across multiple US states over the weekend, many escalating after police responded with teargas, pepper balls and other projectiles, and in some instances using vehicles to ram protesters. Some cities have seen arson and looting, and across the nation police have been criticised for using excessive force. The protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The US protests follow almost a year of highly visible and significant pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, where police are also repeatedly accused of using excessive force.

The US administration has been vocal in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, particularly since Beijing’s declaration it would impose national security laws on the semi-autonomous region. After days of chaotic scenes in the US, on Sunday China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying posted “I can’t breathe” – Floyd’s last words – to Twitter, with a screenshot of her American counterpart criticising China’s crackdown on Hong Kong.

Fellow ministry spokesman, Lijian Zhao retweeted numerous comments and reports on the protests, including from Russia’s deputy representative to the UN, accusing the US of double standards. “Why US denies China’s right to restore peace and order in HK while brutally dispersing crowds at home?” said Dmitry Polyanskiy. State media has also revelled in the scenes of unrest unfolding in the US.

“US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once called the violent protests in Hong Kong ‘a beautiful sight to behold.’… US politicians now can enjoy this sight from their own windows,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on Saturday.

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