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Violent unrest in Hong Kong won't be tolerated: China

Hong Kong

CHINA said violent protests in Hong Kong wouldn't be tolerated, its most high-profile response to unrest rocking the city after a chaotic weekend of unrest illustrated the government's struggles in quelling a leaderless, unpredictable and widespread movement.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office(HKMAO), which answers to China's Cabinet, reaffirmed its support for the city's government and police in a rare briefing on Monday in Beijing. Office spokesman Yang Guang said the country remained committed to the "one country, two systems" that had ensured the former British colony's autonomy since its return in 1997.

Weekend protests showed the movement sustaining momentum for a protracted fight against leader Carrie Lam and her supporters in Beijing, raising questions about whether they can make any more concessions to deflate it and whether China would send in its military to restore order.

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"What has happened in Hong Kong recently has gone far beyond the scope of peaceful march and demonstration, undermined Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and touched on the bottom line of the principle of 'one country, two systems'," Mr Yang said. "No civilised society under the rule of law would ever allow acts of violence to take place."

China's comments appeared to indicate that there would be no imminent change to its tactics in the Asian financial hub, and Hong Kong's stocks pared their losses. The MSCI Hong Kong Index closed 1.6 per cent lower on Monday, after slipping as much as 2.2 per cent.

Earlier on Monday, an edition of the Communist Party's flagship newspaper had used stronger language, urging Hong Kong's police to take stern action to quell ongoing unrest in the city. "At a time like this, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Government and the police should not hesitate or have any unnecessary 'psychological worries' about taking necessary steps" to restore order, said the piece published in the overseas edition of the People's Daily newspaper.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has so far maintained backing for Mrs Lam in part to avoid setting a precedent in which popular protests initiate political change, and officials at Monday's briefing doubled down on that support.

Opposition lawmakers said the HKMAO did little to resolve a crisis that they trace to the city's inability to elect its own leaders. In a news conference on Monday, lawmakers accused the government of shifting the blame to radical protesters, Western countries and the foreign media.

"Beijing tried to make some feeble attempt to help maintain what they assume are the security problems in Hong Kong," said Claudio Mo, a legislator and high-profile participant in several peaceful marches. "That won't help the governance and political crisis that Hong Kong is facing."

As the city returned to normal on Monday morning, the American Chamber of Commerce's Hong Kong chapter urged government action to address grievances underlying the protests, saying steps must be taken to restore sagging confidence and calling for the withdrawal of extradition legislation that first sparked demonstrations.

"We call on the general public of Hong Kong to be aware of the grave nature of the current situation and to jointly condemn the evil and criminal acts committed by the radical elements and prevent them from causing trouble to Hong Kong," Mr Yang said Monday. BLOOMBERG