BEIJING (AFP) – China on Tuesday called major pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong “illegal”, as state media insisted Beijing would not give in but would wait for public opinion to turn against the protests.
Tens of thousands in the global financial hub have been vowing not to end their street blockades until Beijing authorities grant them fully democratic leadership elections.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing that “an illegal assembly” was held in Hong Kong beginning Sunday followed by “a series of illegal activities”.
“We fully believe in and support the Hong Kong SAR government to deal with this issue,” she added, after Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying said protests organised by the pro-democracy Occupy Central group had gotten “out of control”.
China’s Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has made no public comment on the protests and remained silent as he and other top party officials offered flower baskets in Tiananmen Square on the first “Martyrs’ Day”, a new holiday to celebrate China’s national heroes.
The previous evening Xi “appreciated a music concert”, the party’s official People’s Daily newspaper reported.
Xi was shown smiling and clapping flanked by current Premier Li Keqiang and former president Jiang Zemin, who rose to power following a violent military suppression of 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing.
China under Xi has cracked down on dissent, but Hong Kong’s leadership has denied speculation that Beijing would send in the army to quash the protests.
The People’s Daily said in a commentary on its website the protesters were an “extreme minority” who have “destroyed the rule of law” in the city.
“This breach of the peace and extreme behaviour will ultimately lead to a breakdown in social order,” it added.
The state-run China Daily said that the protests were “taking a toll on local harmony and stability”.
The Global Times said the “tide will turn against the oppositionists” if Beijing stands firm.
“The central government will not step back just because of the chaos created by the oppositionists,” it said.
“Hong Kong people see it clearly that the central government (Beijing) will not change its mind, they will recognise the dramas staged by the oppositionists are just making things worse,” the paper added.
Britain on Monday voiced concern about the escalating protests in Hong Kong and called for “constructive” talks, while the United States asked Hong Kong’s leaders to show restraint and said it had made its support for universal suffrage in the territory known to Beijing.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua chided foreign countries making statements on the demonstrations.
“Hong Kong affairs fall within China’s domestic affairs,” she said. “We urge caution to outside parties and call for them not to interfere with China’s internal affairs in any way.”