Beijing warns HK protesters not to ‘play with fire’

Beijing warns HK protesters not to ‘play with fire’

On Tuesday, China warned that "those who play with fire will perish by it", as tensions between the protesters and government reached a fever pitch.

Over the past 48 hours, three successive developments have exacerbated the situation in Hong Kong, which has been in the grips of massive public protests since June, when the administration sought to introduce a law that would have allowed the city-state to extradite suspected criminals to China.

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.

Mr Yang singled out "brazen, violent and criminal actors" and the "meddling hands behind the scenes" as the focus of law enforcement efforts, which indicates Beijing will take a hard line against the protests and has no plans to open a dialogue on activists' demands for political reforms.

Protesters are demanding a complete withdrawal of the bill, an independent inquiry into the crisis, an investigation into what they say is excessive use of force by police, and for Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam to step down.

On Monday Hong Kong buckled under a general strike followed by the most widespread and sustained clashes so far with tear gas fired at least a dozen locations against increasingly violent protesters.

Officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets after protesters ignore commands and throw objects in the ongoing backlash over a Chinese extradition bill.

"During the operation, the police arrested 148 people consisting of 95 males and 53 females, aged between 13 and 63 years old", superintendent John Tse told journalists, who had just read out a statement condemning multiple incidents of violence against members of the press, and tapped their pens in a chorus of protest at the start of the daily police news conference.

A SPOKESPERSON yesterday urged people in Hong Kong to stop the violence and chaos and bring back order.

Many protesters have chosen to hide their identities because they fear official retribution. Protesters say police were slow to protect them.

Videos posted online on Tuesday showed protesters using traffic cones to contain tear gas canisters being used by police.

Yang also called on Hong Kong citizens to turn on the protesters by refusing to accept their promotional materials and opposing disruptions to public transport.

An injured man is attended to as he sits on the street after a clash during a protest in Tsuen Wan district of Hong Kong on Monday.

Speculation has grown that the Communist Party-led central government will deploy the military to quell demonstrators after Chinese officials pointed to an article in Hong Kong law that allows troops already stationed in the city to help with "public order maintenance" at the Hong Kong government's request.

Chan said Tuesday that he hopes Hong Kong residents will carefully consider how to respond if the army does intervene.

Protests in Hong Kong, seen as a challenge to Beijing's authority, are now in their ninth week.

Veteran Chinese political commentator Willy Lam said the police video, and a similar PLA propaganda video released on August 1, was a form of "psychological warfare" aimed at sowing fear in Hong Kong. More than 200 flights had to be cancelled.

Three protesters who spoke to reporters Tuesday said the briefing was meant to counter the regular government and police news conferences in which authorities have repeatedly decried violent acts by some pro-democracy demonstrators.

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