Hong Kong police rained tear gas on thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the city's financial district today as tensions over the island's democratic rights grow The Chinese government has expressed its continuing support for Hong Kong's leader in the face of a demand by demonstrators for him to resign. The protesters have threatened to blockade government buildings.
China's ruling Communist Party used an editorial published by its official newspaper on Thursday to stress that its confidence in Hong Kong's leader remained unshaken despite days of protests demanding his resignation.
"The central government has full confidence in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and is completely satisfied with his work," read the commentary, published on the front page of the People's Daily.
The paper also expressed its confidence in the ability of local police "to handle illegal activities in accordance with the law," while at the same time warning that by "handling affairs without following laws, Hong Kong society will be in chaos."
The police have faced widespread international criticism for using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse protesters last weekend. Authorities have defended their actions, saying they had no choice but to respond after protesters charged police lines.
Protesters remained on the streets at several locations in the financial hub on Thursday, but in lower numbers than on Wednesday, China's national holiday, when their numbers swelled into the tens of thousands as many families and couples took advantage of the day off to visit the protest zones.
The demonstrators, who are demanding a fully free and democratic election for Hong Kong's next chief executive in 2017, have threatened to "paralyze the functioning" of important government officesif Leung fails to meet their demand that he step down by the end of this Thursday. They are protesting against a Chinese government decision last month to allow only a few candidates vetted by Beijing to make it onto the ballot.
The situation was reported to be calm on Thursday, but Hong Kong police have urged pro-democracy protesters to refrain from trying to put their threat into action. Police spokesman Steve Hui used a press conference to warn that doing so could result in "serious consequences."
"It will also allow criminals to take advantage of the situation and the public order could be undermined," he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters during a visit to Washington that "Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs,"
US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed the hope that "the Hong Kong authorities will exercise restraint and respect the protesters' right to express their views peacefully."