China said on Monday that unrest in the United States highlighted its severe problems of racism and police violence, and exposed Washington’s double standards in supporting Hong Kong’s protesters.

“Black people’s lives are also lives. Their human rights must also be guaranteed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing, referring to the death in custody of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.

Police violence

“Racism against ethnic minorities in the U.S. is a chronic disease of American society,” Mr. Zhao added. “The current situation reflects once more the severity of the problems of racism and police violence in the U.S.”

Chinese diplomats and state media have seized on the violent unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd to accuse the U.S. of hypocrisy and compare American protesters with pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

Mr. Zhao on Monday said the U.S. government’s response to protests at home was a “textbook example of its world-famous double standards. “Why does the U.S. lionise the so-called Hong Kong independence and black violence elements as heroes and activists, while calling people who protest against racism ‘rioters’?” Mr. Zhao asked.

China has insisted that “foreign forces” are to blame for the turmoil in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy protesters — described by Beijing as rioters — have marched in the millions since June last year and often clashed with the police.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying also took aim at Washington.

“I can’t breathe,” she said on Twitter, with a screenshot of a tweet by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus that had criticised China’s policy in Hong Kong. Ms. Hua was quoting the words Floyd was heard saying repeatedly before his death — after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

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