Chinese Activist Ai Weiwei Warns Hong Kong Protests Could End Like Tiananmen Square in 1989

Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei has weighed in on the Hong Kong protests, that have involved an estimated 1 million residents, who oppose legislation that would set up an extradition agreement with China.

Speaking with CNN on Wednesday, Ai said the protests are "absolutely necessary" in order for the people of Hong Kong to hash out some form of justice or progress with their government. Demonstrators have been attacked by police and at least 72 have been injured from tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray.

Ai said the gradual uptick in police violence is not shocking, comparing the bloody crackdown amid the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

"It is very clear that the police gradually became quite violent and we have a clear memory about what happened thirty years ago, what happened when students assembled peacefully in Tiananmen Square," he said.

"And the end of it is tanks with a lot of people being harmed and killed so that can also be what happens in Hong Kong with this kind of society. They have no skill or not even will to communicate, to talk about issues, to come out with a better solution."

After peacefully protesting on Sunday, protesters tried to storm Hong Kong's Legislative Council on Wednesday in hopes of delaying debate on the extradition legislation that would allow people suspected of certain crimes to be sent to mainland China, which many critics fear could be used to target political dissidents.

"It's Hong Kong's people, young people mostly, defending their rights and this has to happen because nobody trusts China's judicial system," Ai told CNN's Kristie Lu Stout Wednesday morning.

"Hong Kong's identity as a city of rights and freedom is under threat – so we protest," he tweeted Wednesday.

Ai is a Chinese dissident and was detained in Beijing in 2011. He is an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party.

Hong Kong became a semiautonomous Chinese territory after the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

"They secretly detain lawyers, they have detained those people who put tweets on the internet so this is a society which is not a rule of law," Ai continued. "They don't have a judicial system so for Hong Kong to become a frontline to protect Hong Kong people's rights not to let this happen -- this is absolutely necessary. And it's not just for Hong Kong but globally to hear Hong Kong people's concerns."

At stake, Ai said, is the question of whether China is "a society that can be trusted." He noted human rights and freedom of speech are two things "we can't lose ground on" against the Chinese or Hong Kong government.

Speaking outside of the White House Wednesday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president is aware of the protests in Hong Kong. She added that it's "remarkable to see that many people take to the street."

Hong Kong's government says more talks are needed to reassure citizens and to address legal loopholes to extradite "real criminals," CNN reported.

"I totally oppose this bill because I have no confidence in Hong Kong's government, which is not democratically elected and is in favor of the Chinese government so I don't think they can do anything to really help," Ai said.

ai weiwei hong kong protests
Artist Ai Weiwei said the Hong Kong protests against a China extradition bill are "absolutely necessary" for the people to fight for the rights against an oppressive and untrustworthy government. Screenshot: CNN