Chinese officials have called for greater protection for pro-Beijing groups involved in rallies in Australia.
In recent weeks hundreds of pro-democracy activists have gathered in Australian cities in support of protesters in Hong Kong.
However, there have been scuffles between the pro-democracy and pro-China groups.
On Friday night in Melbourne, tempers flared and police were forced to separate the angry groups. On Sunday, about 100 pro-Hong Kong protesters clashed with pro-China activists in Adelaide’s Rundle Mall.
There have also been campus protests, ranging from a scuffle at the University of Queensland to peaceful hours-long debates on the footpaths outside Monash University’s Clayton campus in Melbourne and the vandalism of pro-democracy posters at the University of Tasmania.
Authorities in Perth and Adelaide are also reportedly investigating after fake Chinese police cars were spotted in both cities amid pro-Hong Kong demonstrations across Australia.
Photos have emerged of a car – showing Chinese characters – parked at various spots in Adelaide’s CBD. There are similar reports from Western Australia.
According to the ABC, the owner of one of the cars has told police it was a “joke”.
Nothing to see here, just *checks notes* a fake Chinese police car being spotted in Australia. Absolutely no problem with Chinese influence in Aus being swept under the carpet whatsoever, nope.https://t.co/91QC2W16qy pic.twitter.com/D3KJj9PaMv
— Jack Hazlewood (@JackHHazlewood) August 18, 2019
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said it was “totally understandable and reasonable” for Chinese students and other citizens overseas to “express indignation and opposition against such words and deeds that attempt to separate China and smear its image”.
“We also hope overseas Chinese can express their patriotism in a rational way and protect themselves from harm,” he said.
The official said overseas Chinese people should observe local laws and regulations.
“In the meantime, we hope relevant countries can understand and respect their legal activities and protect their lawful rights and interests.”
Hong Kong has been plunged into its biggest political crisis since the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, with a wave of protests against a now-suspended extradition bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts.
The protests, which started in April, have transformed into broader demands including the resignation of Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam and calls for a “free Hong Kong”.