Beijing’s warnings to Hong Kong are growing more ominous by the day

The Umbrella Movement is one month older.
The Umbrella Movement is one month older.
Image: AP Photo/Kin Cheung
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HONG KONG—Beijing is losing patience with Hong Kong’s month-long pro-democracy movement. As the protests over the city’s elections pass the one-month mark, various officials have come out to warn of economic punishment, the need to clear the protesters, and to remind Hong Kong delegates to mainland legislative bodies of the limits of their free speech.

According to the South China Morning Post, a senior official in Beijing told Hong Kong officials this morning that they can “say freely whatever they want“—aside, that is, from criticizing the government or demanding chief executive CY Leung’s resignation. And Hong Kong tycoon James Tien was kicked out of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference today after he publicly called on Leung to step down.

Beijing has already instituted small economic retaliations against Hong Kong, including restrictions on mainland tourists who spend vast amounts of money here. (Student leader Joshua Wong tweeted on Oct. 28, “You call that punishment?“) But the truly scary veiled threat is that China’s military could quell the demonstrations with deadly force.

At the end of September when the protests began, Leung was quick to promise that China’s military would not be called in as it was during the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. But recently, Leung has hinted that the central government may forced to intervene if the protests get out of hand. Meanwhile, the tone of Beijing’s editorials, while mostly restrained, have grown more strident, and officials appear to be using harsher language.

State-run Xinhua reported on its microblog (registration required) yesterday that the Chinese Communist Party declared to “fight against foreign meddling” in Hong Kong. Joseph Yam, part of an advisory board for China’s central bank warned that if Hong Kong continues to be “uncooperative, unreliable, troublemaking, the mainland will for sure reduce reliance, [and] make a fresh start at another place.”

China’s Foreign Ministry also published interview given by the Chinese ambassador to Brazil on the need to end the protests. “The movement has become a fiasco. It is time for it to end,” Li Jinzhang told the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo (link in Portuguese). He said, “At this stage today, [we] have reached a point where there is no choice but to clear the places.”