China: 'Criminals' pushing Hong Kong to 'dangerous abyss'

China: 'Criminals' pushing Hong Kong to 'dangerous abyss'

Chinese officials issued their most forceful warning thus far against the organizers of protests that have roiled Hong Kong, claiming Tuesday that the demonstrators were “criminals” who should be careful not to “play with fire,” according to Reuters.

“I would like to warn all of the criminals: don’t ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness,” the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a document issued during a Beijing briefing, according to the news service.

ADVERTISEMENT

The protests began weeks ago in response to a bill that would allow some residents of Hong Kong to be extradited to the Chinese mainland, but since Chief Executive Carrie Lam suspended the measure, protesters’ focus has shifted to police brutality, calling for Lam’s resignation and what they say is an erosion of the city’s autonomy from China.

Beijing said that the protests, which have topped 1 million people at their peak, were masterminded by violent radicals with “some kind-hearted citizens who have been misguided and coerced to join."

“We would like to make clear to the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them: those who play with fire will perish by it,” the office added.

Previously, China accused the U.S. of “creating” the protests after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoProtests serve as backdrop to Erdoğan's visit to White House Chris Wallace: Taylor testimony 'very damaging to President Trump' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings MORE expressed hopes Beijing would “do the right thing” in response.

“It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing last week. "He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”