HONG KONG (AFP, REUTERS) - China has the option to "forcefully intervene" to quell violent protests in Hong Kong, an influential state-controlled tabloid warned in an editorial on Friday (Aug 16), lashing out at what Beijing describes as United States interference in Hong Kong.
But it said there “won’t be a repeat” of the Tiananmen Square crackdown if Beijing moves to quash Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
"Beijing hasn't decided to forcefully intervene to quell the Hong Kong riots, but this option is clearly at Beijing's disposal," the Global Times wrote in the editorial.
"The People's Armed Police assembling in Shenzhen has sent a clear warning to the Hong Kong rioters," the newspaper said, referring to exercises that the paramilitary force has been conducting this week in the mainland Chinese city that borders Hong Kong.
"If Hong Kong cannot restore the rule of law on its own and the riots intensify, it's imperative then for the central government to take direct actions based on the Basic Law."
Beijing has repeatedly accused the US of interfering in Hong Kong, and American officials including lawmakers have been stepping up warnings for China not to crack down on the protesters.
The nationalist tabloid, published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily, said the situation in Hong Kong "won't be a repeat of the June 4th political incident in 1989", referring to the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square 30 years ago.
"Washington will not be able to intimidate China by using the turmoil 30 years ago. China is much stronger and more mature, and its ability to manage complex situations has been greatly enhanced," it said.
Hong Kong has endured 10 weeks of civil unrest, which have morphed from opposition to a controversial extradition bill into a wider, and sometimes violent, call for democratic rights.
An intensifying drumbeat of propaganda and strident warnings have sparked fears that Beijing might look to intervene – possibly militarily – in the semi-autonomous city.
Images of flag-waving military personnel and armoured vehicles in the border city of Shenzhen this week added to those fears, with international commentators invoking spectre of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Weeks of student-led protests in the Beijing square were ended when the military rolled in with tanks.
Images of the operation were beamed around the world. Estimates on the death toll range from hundreds to thousands, although there is no official figure.