BEIJING – China’s central government has not yet intervened in demonstrations in Hong Kong but, if it does so, it will not be a repeat of the Tiananmen crackdown 30 years ago, an editorial published in the official newspaper Global Times said on Friday.
The newspaper, known for its nationalist tone, asserted that “China is much stronger and more mature, and its ability to manage complex situations has been greatly enhanced.”
The daily said that Beijing has not decided to intervene by force to crack down on protests in Hong Kong but adds that “this option is clearly at Beijing’s disposal.”
“The People’s Armed Police assembling in Shenzhen has sent a clear warning to the Hong Kong rioters. 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,” the editorial said.
Under Basic Law, the Hong Kong government can ask Chinese troops stationed at various barracks in the city for help to maintain public order.
The article also had words for the United States after several US lawmakers expressed support for the Hong Kong protesters. It said that the US politicians are “blatantly pointing their fingers at China. It’s obvious that they fail to understand the era they are living in.”
“Washington will not be able to intimidate China by using the turmoil 30 years ago,” said the editorial, whose mention of the Tiananmen massacre is rare among official media of the Communist regime.
According to the newspaper, the US government has “the ability to fool Hong Kong’s radical protesters and incite them to stage a color revolution. But it is unable to influence Beijing’s attitude on the Hong Kong issue.”
The Global Times denies that US President Donald Trump has tried to link the Hong Kong protests to negotiations between Washington and Beijing to end the trade war that both economic powers have been waging since March 2018.
It would be a “futile effort,” says the daily, adding that Washington has “no additional cards to play on China” after having announced additional tariffs, which will affect the last set of Chinese imports to the US that were exempt from tariffs.
Toeing the line of the ruling party, which claims that the US is involved in stirring protests in Hong Kong, the editorial ends by asking the city’s residents to “recognize Washington’s attempts to ruin the city.”
The protests in Hong Kong were sparked by the government’s contentious extradition bill, which, according to its opponents, would have enabled fugitives to be transferred from Hong Kong to mainland China to stand trial under the latter’s opaque legal system.
Hong Kong was passed to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, although it still retains a degree of independence from Beijing under the “one country, two systems” policy.
According to the handover deal between London and Beijing, this political system – which includes certain legal freedoms not recognized in mainland China – must be preserved until 2047.
The protests, involving hundreds of thousands of people, began in June and have been accompanied by attempts by the police to repress them and prevent protesters from disrupting the normal functioning of the city with strikes and occupations of official buildings, police stations, metro stations and the airport.