Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, reiterated Beijing’s support for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the city’s police on Tuesday. But Mr. Yang’s remarks and those in state media were harsher than a week earlier, reflecting waning patience for Hong Kong’s government to quell the protests.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” said Yang Guang, of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” he said at a news conference. “Don’t ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness.” He said the city had been pushed into a dangerous abyss, echoing the concerns of Mrs. Lam who warned protesters Monday that they were entering “very dangerous territory.”
More than 200 flights into and out of the city were canceled Monday as workers, including air-traffic control staff, joined the strike, and commuters were stranded as protesters delayed subway services. But by Tuesday, with the strike over, the city was seemingly back to normal, with flights, trains and traffic operating as usual.
The unrest in Hong Kong has escalated into a second crisis for Beijing, as it grapples with a spiraling trade conflict with the U.S. that has roiled global markets. The two issues have begun to bleed into one another, with some American lawmakers expressing concern over whether Hong Kong is autonomous enough to merit special trade status with the U.S.
Chinese officials, in turn, have accused the U.S. of encouraging Hong Kong protesters to undermine the nation. State-run tabloid Global Times floated the idea on Monday that multinationals that don’t appear to sufficiently support Beijing over the Hong Kong protests should suffer business consequences.
Mr. Yang called on Hong Kong’s government and police to be firm, saying the central government would never allow the city to fall into a dangerous situation. “They need to carry out their respective duties, enforce the law strictly and never be soft on violent violations of the law,” he said.
In a rare news conference, China’s top office for Hong Kong affairs offered tacit support for further efforts by the city’s authorities to punish violence and uphold the rule of law. Photos: Laurel Chor/Getty Images and Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images
A Hong Kong police spokesman said 148 people were arrested on Monday.
In North Point, the site of clashes between rival groups Monday night, some banks, restaurants and other businesses closed by midafternoon Tuesday after warnings spread on social media of possible fresh assaults. Witnesses said more than a dozen men, some wearing white shirts, had used bamboo sticks on Monday night to attack crowds of antiextradition-bill protesters marching on the streets. Video clips on social media indicated the attacks turned into clashes, with both sides throwing objects at each other.
A key demand of protesters is the resignation of Mrs. Lam. During a press conference Monday she said she had no intention of stepping down. Mr. Yang reiterated on Tuesday that she has Beijing’s unswerving support and that any efforts to push her out of office would “go nowhere.”
Her critics have questioned whether she is maintaining the city’s autonomous administration, or taking directions from Beijing. “It’s clear Beijing is running the show,” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legislator.
A government spokeswoman cited Mrs. Lam’s remarks Monday that the situation in Hong Kong was becoming dangerous and unstable.
Three young members of Hong Kong’s antigovernment protest movement held a news conference Tuesday to list demands and condemn the city’s pro-Beijing leaders.
vanessa yung/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Beijing’s impatience is growing as the protests drag on past a ninth weekend. In recent days, Chinese state media have called for a harsher crackdown by Hong Kong authorities and said the central government wouldn’t stand idly by. State-run China Daily said in an editorial on Sunday that Hong Kong authorities needed to move beyond “kid-glove tactics.”
On Tuesday morning, more than 10,000 mainland police officers gathered in Shenzhen just across the border from Hong Kong for antiriot drills. The mock protesters held banners reminiscent of mainland labor protests demanding unpaid wages, but they were clad in black T-shirts and yellow hard hats —the unofficial uniform of the Hong Kong protesters.
In the exercises, groups of police with riot shields practiced firing tear gas, blocking blows from the mock protesters’ improvised weapons and extinguishing flaming wheelbarrows. The Shenzhen police bureau wrote that the drills were held in preparation for the country’s 70th anniversary and would contribute to the country’s “political security” and social stability.
Bates Gill, a China specialist at Australia’s Macquarie University, said such a security drill was a signal from Beijing, and that sending some police officers from Shenzhen was a feasible scenario if Hong Kong’s police force requested it. He said China would be loath to use the People’s Liberation Army and would likely prefer to use maneuvers in the “gray zone.”
“There’s no doubt that some people in Beijing are considering some options short of the PLA,” he said.
—Natasha Khan and Joyu Wang contributed to this article.
Write to Eva Dou at email@example.com
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