China warns Hong Kong protesters not to 'play with fire'


The Communist Party-led central government in Beijing has condemned the protesters and has accused unnamed "foreign forces" of inflaming the demonstrations out of a desire to contain the country's development.

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.

"I don't think the government is willing to give ground and there's no indication that the protesters are willing to settle", said Adam Ni, a China researcher at Macquarie University in Australia.

"Don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness".

The two-month crisis has become the biggest threat to Beijing's rule of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city since its handover from the British in 1997. Speaking on Monday, the embattled Lam said the Chinese territory was "on the verge of a very unsafe situation" - words repeated verbatim by Yang.

The comments seem to indicate Beijing will adopt an even harder line against the protest movement that has rocked the semiautonomous Chinese enclave for nine weeks, posing an enormous challenge to the central government.

On Monday, much of the city burned under clouds of teargas, hails of rubber bullets, and fires lit by angry protesters facing off against riot police. Protesters were joined by teachers, security workers and some 2,300 aviation workers, resulting in 224 flight cancellations. Protesters descended on subway stations during morning rush hour, deliberately keeping open doors to stop trains departing and paralyzing large parts of a network that millions of people use daily. In several locations, they used flash grenades and tear-gas against black-clad protesters wearing face masks. Media documented tear gas being fired in at least a dozen districts on Monday.

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Hong Kong protesters held an inaugural "People's Press Conference" on Tuesday to condemn what they called the government's "empty rhetoric" and instances of alleged police abuse.

"We call on people from all walks of life in Hong Kong to unequivocally oppose and resist violence", Mr Yang said on July 29, when he also labelled protesters "evil' and "criminals".

Protesters are now demanding that the extradition bill be abandoned completely, and are calling for the resignation of city officials, the release of protesters who have been arrested, as well as wider political reform.

Although Lam's government has since suspended consideration of the controversial bill, protesters want a promise to kill it completely.

Experts have claimed that the Hong Kong economy has suffered grave losses due to the protests, including its tourism industry, with falling hotel occupancy rates and markets. Hong Kong, Beijing argued on Tuesday, enjoys a privileged role in worldwide financial systems, a status that a small group of radical activists threaten. "That would have huge costs to the mainland government, to the Hong Kong government", said John Burns, a professor emeritus at Hong Kong University focusing on Hong Kong. "Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our time", they chanted.

Hong Kong's Airport Authority sent out an advisory telling passengers to check with their airlines and "to proceed to the airport only when their seats and flight time have been confirmed". He says that the protesters have had to come up with creative solutions because the police have been using tear gas on a massive scale.

Such media briefings are normally very rare but Tuesday's will be the second in as many weeks.