According to BBC, China has condemned the recent anti-government protests in Hong Kong as “horrendous incidents” that have caused “serious damage to the rule of law”.
A spokeswoman for China’s top policy office on Hong Kong insisted that the territory’s “top priority” was to “restore social order”.
The comments marked a rare intervention by the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office [HKMAO].
The city has seen eight consecutive weekends of anti-government protests.
There were violent clashes on Sunday as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. Barricades were also erected at several different locations in the city.
Although authorities in Beijing have condemned the protests and reiterated their support for Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on several occasions, Monday’s intervention is widely seen as conveying the official views of China’s top leadership on the civil unrest for the first time.
A spokesman for the HKMAO, Yang Guang, condemned what he called the “evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements” in Hong Kong.
“We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation,” he said at the news conference.
Spokeswoman Xu Luying added: “We also believe that Hong Kong’s top priority… is to punish violent and unlawful acts in accordance with the law, to restore social order as soon as possible, and to maintain a good business environment.”
The intervention came a week after protesters defaced the highly symbolic national emblem on the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, prompting fury in Beijing.
The authorities have now installed a protective casing around the sign.
As a former British colony, Hong Kong has its own legal and judicial systems, and has been promised “a high degree of autonomy” from the Chinese government except in foreign and defence affairs.
Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong legislator who supports the protest movement, said Beijing’s latest comments could provoke further unrest.
“I’m so worried what happened in Beijing today [will] actually help fan the fire,” she told the BBC. “The way they say they resolutely… support Carrie Lam and the police force. They are trying to divide Hong Kong.”
Bruce Lui, a senior journalism lecturer at the Hong Kong Baptist University, said he could not recall a news conference on Hong Kong being called by the HKMAO.
“Beijing is repeating what it has said before. It condemns violence, supports Carrie Lam and Hong Kong police,” he told the BBC. “But when asked about the deployment of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops, the spokesperson showed a rather distant attitude.”
Although PLA troops are stationed in Hong Kong, they are not expected to interfere in local issues. But the law does permit Hong Kong’s government to request assistance from the PLA for the purposes of maintaining public order or disaster relief.