China warned Hong Kong protesters Tuesday that they should not underestimate "the immense strength of the central government", in a strong rebuke to those involved with civil unrest in the Asian financial hub.
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 comments represent some of the strongest-worded warnings from China's central government yet over protests in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong, which has been plunged into chaos by weeks of clashes.
Protests were triggered by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but then rapidly evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform and the protect of freedoms.
Yang said that the "radical protests... have severely impacted Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, pushing it into a dangerous abyss".
He also said the government still "firmly supports" both the Hong Kong police force -- who have faced criticism in the city for their handling of the protests -- and Carrie Lam, the city's pro-Beijing leader, who has faced calls to resign from protesters.
In a strong warning aimed at the "criminals" behind the unrest, Yang said: "Don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness...Don't ever underestimate the firm resolve and immense strength of the central government.
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