China warns Hong Kong protesters of ‘unimaginable’ consequences

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SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – HONG KONG — China warned the thousands of Hong Kong residents still occupying the streets of Hong Kong Thursday that their pro-democracy demonstrations are illegal and that if they continue, the consequences could be “unimaginable.”

In a front-page editorial in the People’s Daily newspaper, the flagship paper of China’s Communist Party, China also gave its full support to the present government of Hong Kong, including its chief executive, Leung Chun-ying.

The protesters have been demanding that Leung step down with some of their leaders threatening to start occupying buildings Thursday if their demands are not met.

“They have incited the masses, paralyzed transportation, disrupted businesses, stirred up conflict, and interfered with the daily lives of Hong Kong people,” the editorial said about the pro-democracy protesters.

“This has gone so far as to threaten people’s safety, as well as their property,” said the editorial in the People’s Daily, considered a mouthpiece for the Chinese government. “These activists ought to be held legally responsible for this unlawful behavior.”

The editorial said the protesters were not engaged in communication, but rather “confrontation.”

It said they have “shamed” Hong Kong, harming its reputation as a hub of international business. It warned that if the protesters continue, the “consequences will be unimaginable.”

Thousands of demonstrators kept up their occupation of Hong Kong streets Thursday.

The Hong Kong government — after an initial tough response with tear gas Sunday that only drew more demonstrators to the streets — has laid low, apparently betting on the protesters losing steam and the public gradually turning against them in the absence of conflict.

Wednesday, a holiday celebrating the Chinese Communist Party’s ascent to power, saw some of the biggest crowds yet in a public demonstration against Beijing’s political control — a demonstration that has scrambled calculations about the nature of Hong Kong’s self-rule.

The organizers of the protests must find a way to keep the momentum on their side, against the risk that Hong Kong residents who showed up Wednesday will feel they have made their point and want to get back to their regular lives.

But at the same time, the patience shown by the authorities, including in Beijing, could quickly vanish if signs emerge that Hong Kong’s democratic fervor was spreading to the mainland.

The protesters are demanding that Leung resign and that Beijing back down on plans to vet candidates in Hong Kong elections. But not everyone on the streets agrees with the threat to escalate by occupying buildings. Up to now, the demonstators have been punctilious about obeying the law.

For days, their loose organization has in many ways been their strength — bringing in far more numbers and support than previous incarnations run by distinct groups with formal leaders.

But as time drags on, that structure could make it harder to agree on a course of action, or to enter into negotiations with the authorities and achieve tangible gains through compromise with the government.

“Right now, as protesters decide what to do next, decentralization is the weak link that Leung’s government can exploit to sow dissension,” said Willy Lam, an analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Interviews with Hong Kong legislators, former officials and
Leung advisers — as well as protesters — make it clear that
Leung’s choice to wait is not just the logical step for him but one of the only things he can do.

Resorting to force seems unlikely not just from a public-relations perspective, but because the people on the streets vastly outnumber police ranks. Sending in the People’s Liberation Army would equally be a disaster, creating instant parallels to the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989.

A waiting strategy, however, has its own risks.

If the protests continue in large numbers for weeks or months, Chinese President Xi Jinping could look weak and open himself to criticism among party rivals that he has lost Hong Kong.

Already, China’s censors have been working overtime to keep images and news of the protest from reaching a Chinese audience, with some experts estimating that deleted posts on social media have reached record highs since Saturday.

CNN and other foreign news channels have gone black in China at the mere mention of Hong Kong.

And at least 20 people in China have been detained and 60 called in for questioning for posting online messages of support for the protest, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Source: The Washington Post

www.shafaqna.com/english

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