IN AN indication that China expects the protest movement in Hong Kong to be fully over within the next three weeks, a senior Chinese government official here says that it "should not have any effect on Apec".
She was referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Meeting - which will see 21 heads of government including United States President Barack Obama converging on Beijing - to take place from Nov 5 to Nov 11.
Asked if the Occupy movement, now in its 18th day, will be "embarrassing for (Chinese) President Xi Jinping" if it drags on till then, the official replied: "We have seen that the situation in Hong Kong is gradually restoring to normalcy. It should not have any effect on Apec."
She was speaking to the foreign media on Wednesday afternoon in a rare informal briefing here, and had asked not to be named.
The senior official had earlier demurred when asked if there is any deadline for resolving the political crisis, the most serious in Hong Kong since the 1997 handover.
But later, in a return to the topic, she stressed that "society has reached a point of not being able to tolerate (the situation) anymore".
"The entire city has been heavily burdened by the damage caused by a few number of people for their own political purposes. Damage has been inflicted on the entire society."
Neither Beijing nor the Hong Kong government have given any timeline on when they expect to the sit-in to end.
In recent days, senior Beijing officials including Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang had characterised the Occupy movement as a "colour revolution", supported by Western countries - a definition that analysts say signal that the central government is reaching the limits of its patience.
The senior official said that based on what she herself has observed, "if you look at how it's been planned, organised, with its slogans and actions, it's obvious this has a tinge of a colour revolution".
The term "colour revolution" is used to describe the series of uprisings to bring about regime change in the former Soviet Union in the early 2000s.
Asked what led to the conclusion that the Occupy movement is supported by Western powers, the official said that it is obvious.
"From the statement and rhetoric of outside forces, of some parliamentarians, such interference certainly exists," she asserts.
Pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have previously travelled to the United States and Britain where they have met senior government leaders including US Vice-President Joe Biden and British parliamentarians.
Given the stepped up rhetoric, speculation has swirled anew over whether Beijing might send in the People's Liberation Army.
However, the senior official indicated that doing so is not on the cards - for now.
"So far, there is no such need," she said simply.
She added that the central government is confident in the abilities of the Hong Kong authorities, including the police, to handle the situation, adding that social order is being restored gradually.
In recent days, the Hong Kong police have been clearing barricades at protest sites - first at Causeway Bay, and then at Queensway, a major road in Admiralty. A similar operation is expected to take place at Mong Kok.