Following what many have described as the most violent weekend yet after 86 days, or 13 weeks of pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have led to the arrest of at least 1,117 residents, where the local police is now deploying water cannon in response to “rioters” using petrol bombs, China appears to have finally had enough and on Sunday, Beijing issued a stern ultimatum to not only Hong Kong protesters, but also the West on Sunday, reiterating that it will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Chinese sovereignty over the city.
“The end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong and antagonize China,” stated a commentary piece published by the state’s Xinhua News Agency.
According to the Nikkei, the ultimatum was directed at “the rioters and their behind-the-scene supporters” – which should be interpreted as China’s latest accusation of Western meddling, with the article warning that “their attempt to ‘kidnap Hong Kong’ and press the central authorities is just a delusion,” adding, “No concession should be expected concerning such principle issues.”
The commentary said three red lines must not be crossed:
- no one should harm Chinese sovereignty,
- challenge the power of the central authorities
- use Hong Kong to infiltrate and undermine the mainland.
“Anyone who dares to infringe upon these bottom lines and interfere in or damage the ‘one country, two systems’ principle will face nothing but failure,” the piece declared. “They should never misjudge the determination and ability of the central government… to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, security and core interests.”
With the protests attracting global attention, the demonstrators and the authorities are also fighting a PR battle. On Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry took an unusual step of distributing images of alleged protester vandalism to the international press, in an apparent attempt to discredit the movement.
The warning came just hours after tens of thousands of people blocked roads and public transport links to Hong Kong’s airport. The demonstrations, which started in response to a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland, have mutated into a broader rejection of Beijing’s growing control over the semi-autonomous city, with China – and even Russia – accusing the CIA of being behind the ongoing protests.
Despite recently linking his view of the trade war with Beijing to the ongoing Hong Kong protests, Trump has refused to sternly condemn the growing possibility of a Chinese crackdown, leading some to suggest that China has cobbled a behind the scenes deal with Trump, whereby it lets the US president give the impression of a modest win in the trade war in exchange for being given a carte blanche to deal with the HK protesters as it sees fit when the time comes, and with the Chinese National Day holiday coming on Oct. 1, it is almost certain that Beijing will have to regain control over Hong Kong in the coming weeks if not days.