Yáng Guāng 杨光, a spokesperson for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, gave a press conference yesterday where he warned Hong Kong protesters: “Play with fire, you’ll get burned” (玩火者必自焚 wánhuǒzhě bì zìfén). He also made frequent references to “black hands” (黑手 hēishǒu) acting behind the scenes to whip up trouble.
[Yang] said China has “tremendous power” to put down the protests and warned that anyone who engages in “violence and crimes…will be held accountable.”
Asked if he could rule out the use of military force in Hong Kong, Yang told journalists: “We will not let any acts attacking the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ go unpunished.”
“I warn all those criminals: Don’t misjudge the situation or take restraint as a sign of weakness,” he said.
Yang also emphasized support for the Hong Kong government and its chief executive, Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥 Lín-Zhèng Yuè’é). Yesterday, we noted that Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily published a front-page editorial (in Chinese) on August 5 expressing support for the Hong Kong police. The newspaper printed another front-page piece (in Chinese) today expressing “firm support for the Chief Executive to lead the Hong Kong SAR Government in accordance with the law.”
In another apparent threat, the Global Times reports that a “total of 12,000 police officers in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province participated in a drill on Tuesday, attracting online attention as the drill features emergency scenarios that resemble the ongoing riots in adjacent Hong Kong.” The article goes on to claim that:
The drill attracted unusual attention on social media as many netizens, who hold a grudge against recent riots in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, said the drill can also call the attention of rioters in Hong Kong, and give Hong Kong police a tip about how to deal with radical protesters.
Global Times also posted a video of the drills to Twitter. It’s worth noting that state media organizations have a habit of calling a piece of propaganda “viral,” as they pump it out through multiple channels online and off.
The protesters do not seem intimidated. “Some of them are prepared to die for the movement,” said one protester who was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. “I am also willing to die for it.” The Guardian also reported that yesterday, “masked protesters staged their first ‘civilian press conference’, in response to government and police press briefings.”