In harshest warning yet, Beijing says it's 'only a matter of time' before 'criminals' behind protests are punished.
April 6, 2019
Protesters in Hong Kong must not "play with fire" and mistake China's restraint for weakness, Beijing has warned, in its sharpest rebuke yet of the demonstrations in the semi-autonomous city.
At a press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the months-long "radical protests" have severely affected Hong Kong's "prosperity and stability, pushing it into a dangerous abyss".
Yang Guang said the Chinese government still "firmly supports" both the Hong Kong police force – who protesters have criticised for their heavy-handed response – and Carrie Lam, the city's pro-Beijing leader who protesters want to resign.
"We would like to make it clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them: Those who play with fire will perish by it," he said.
"As for their punishment, it's only a matter of time."
Yang added: "Don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness … Don't ever underestimate the firm resolve and immense strength of the central government."
Hong Kong has suffered weeks of sometimes-violent protests that began with opposition to a now-suspended extradition law, which would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts.
The protests have since swelled into a broader backlash against the government of the Asian financial hub, fuelled by many residents' fear of eroding freedoms under the increasingly tight control of the Communist Party. Demonstrators' demands include an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the release of arrested protesters and the direct election of officials. [FULL STORY]