CHINA has issued a chilling threat of an "unimaginable and dreadful" future if protests in Hong Kong continue.
The warning came from the country's UK ambassador after a weekend of violent clashes between police and demonstrators cordoned onto a university campus.
Pro-democracy demonstrations are now in their fifth month in the city, and have seen dozens of protesters arrested and injured in violent clashes with police.
Protesters began in opposition to a now-abandoned law that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China, but are now calling for greater democratic reforms and guarantees against the increasing influence of Beijing in the city state.
China has repeatedly threatened to intervene if protests continue.
Speaking at a press conference at the Chinese embassy in London today, ambassador Liu Xiaoming said: “If the violence continues the future of Hong Kong could be unimaginably dreadful.
“The Hong Kong government is trying very hard to put the situation under control.
“But if the situation becomes uncontrollable, the central government would certainly not sit on our hands and watch.
"We have enough resolution and power to end the unrest.”
WHY ARE PEOPLE IN HONG KONG PROTESTING?
Since Britain withdrew from the territory in 1997, Hong Kong has been a semi-autonomous region in China operating under the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems'.
Hong Kong is part of China, but its citizens enjoy more political freedoms than do those living in mainland China.
Under the agreement that saw Hong Kong handed back to China, Beijing agreed to guarantee Hong Kong's political and economic systems for 50 years after the transfer, but many within Hong Kong have already become concerned about the influence exerted by Beijing within the territory.
The current round of protests first erupted in June over a proposed law that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Both the Hong Kong and Chinese governments argued the law was a necessary security measure, but opponents feared that China could use it to target its political opponents within Hong Kong.
The law was eventually scrapped at the start of September, but by then the protests had broadened into a call for greater democratic freedoms and guarantees against Chinese influence.
Authorities have met the demonstrations with violence, deploying tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition on unarmed protesters.
More than 2,000 injuries and 3,000 arrests have been reported so far.
He claimed that the protesters' true agenda was the independence of Hong Kong – currently governed under a principle of "One country, two systems" – from China, and that that was a demand Beijing would never meet.
He also hit out at the British government, saying: "We have made our position known to the British side when they have made irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong.
"I think when the British government criticise Hong Kong police, criticise the Hong Kong government in handling the situation, they are interfering into China’s internal affairs."
In a statement, the foreign office said it was concerned by events, and called for “an end to the violence and the resumption of meaningful political dialogue ahead of the local elections this weekend”.
It also said protesters injured in the ongoing clashes should be allowed to access medical treatment, and that it was vital “safe passage is made available to those that wish to leave the area”.
Around 200 protesters occupied Hong Kong's Polytechnic University over the weekend, but were later cornered by authorities and are now trying to escape.
Police have deployed tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition, while protesters have responded by firing arrows and catapulting petrol bombs.
Footage from the scene showed protesters who had been cordoned on a bridge using ropes to lower themselves onto a road below where people on motorbikes were waiting to ferry them away.
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