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Central government has immense strength, those who play with fire will perish: China to Hong Kong protesters

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong erected barricades in a popular tourist district. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencies Hong Kong Aug 06, 2019, 12.44 PM (IST)

China's central government on Tuesday warned Hong Kong protesters that they should not underestimate "the immense strength of the central government".

At a press briefing in Beijing, Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, also said "those who play with fire will perish by it". 

The remark has come a day after a series of rallies that included bloody clashes between protesters and pro-government men brandishing poles.

The demonstrations were triggered by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions of criminals to mainland China.

They evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform and a halt to eroding freedoms, with protesters' anger fuelled by Lam's refusal to publicly acknowledge their grievances.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city has been wracked by two months of protests and clashes between police and increasingly hardcore demonstrators in the biggest threat to Beijing's rule since its 1997 handover from Britain.

In a press conference, Lam on Monday warned the city was nearing a "very dangerous situation" as she framed the protests as a challenge to China's sovereignty.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover deal with Britain, Hong Kong has rights and liberties unseen on the Chinese mainland, including an independent judiciary and freedom of speech. 

But many say those rights are being curtailed.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of city leader Carrie Lam, an independent inquiry into police tactics, an amnesty for those arrested, a permanent withdrawal of a reviled extradition bill, and the right to elect their leaders.

Story highlights

The remark has come a day after a series of rallies that included bloody clashes between protesters and pro-government men brandishing poles