Amid weeks of mass anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong that have frequently turned violent, Beijing on Tuesday issued a stark warning to protesters: "those who play with fire will perish by it."
The remarks, at a news conference in Beijing, were made by Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council. He said China has "tremendous power" to put down the protests and warned that anyone who engages in "violence and crimes ... will be held accountable."
Asked if he could rule out the use of military force in Hong Kong, Yang told journalists: "We will not let any acts attacking the principle of 'one country, two systems' go unpunished." "I warn all those criminals: Don't misjudge the situation or take restraint as a sign of weakness," he said.
Yang's comments came a day after Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, vowed to restore order in the city after nine weeks of nearly uninterrupted demonstrations. Speaking on Monday, the embattled Lam said the Chinese territory was "on the verge of a very dangerous situation" — words repeated verbatim by Yang.
See also: Hong Kong Strike Sinks City Into Chaos, and Government Has Little Reply [nytimes.com]
Hong Kong's Stock Rout Enters 10th Day, Worst Streak Since 1984 [bloomberg.com]
Hong Kong Protests Broaden Despite Police Crackdown [hrw.org]