Aussies warned on HK travel as China hits out
AUSTRALIANS planning on travelling to Hong Kong are being told to "exercise a high degree of caution" after the federal government upgraded its travel advice as pro-democracy protests continue to spark violent clashes.
"Protests have become more unpredictable and are expected to continue," the government's Smart Traveller website says.
"Tourist areas have been affected. There is a risk of violent confrontation between protesters and police, or criminally-linked individuals, particularly at unauthorised protests."
Australians have also been told the risks are greater at night and on weekends and are "strongly" urged to avoid large public gatherings.
China has warned it's "only a matter of time" before it punishes those behind two months of pro-democracy protests that have increasingly devolved into violent clashes with law enforcement.
The protests began in response to Beijing's plans to impose tough laws in the semi-autonomous state that would have allowed it to extradite Hong Kong residents to the mainland.
"We would like to make it 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," Yang Guang, spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said on Tuesday.
"Don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness."
CHINA'S CHILLING WARNING TO PROTESTERS
China warned Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters on Tuesday that "those who play with fire will perish by it", a day after the most widespread unrest of the two-month crisis.
In its harshest warning yet, Beijing said the immense strength of the central government should not be underestimated, while police in the semi-autonomous city announced they had arrested almost 150 people in connection with Monday's violence.
The global financial centre has been plunged into chaos by weeks of protests triggered by opposition to a planned law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The protests have since evolved into a wider movement for democratic reform and the protection of freedoms.
At a press briefing in Beijing, Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the "radical protests... have severely impacted Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, pushing it into a dangerous abyss".
Yang said the government still "firmly supports" both the Hong Kong Police Force - who have been criticised for their handling of the protests - and Carrie Lam, the city's pro-Beijing leader who protesters want to resign.
"We would like to make it 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," Yang said.
"Don't ever misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness... Don't ever underestimate the firm resolve and immense strength of the central government."
In the latest clashes, on Tuesday night police fired tear gas at protesters and residents who had gathered outside a police station in the neighbourhood of Sham Shui Po after the arrest of a student.
Police told reporters the student was arrested for possession of offensive weapons after officers found him carrying 10 18-centimetre-long laser pointers in a plastic bag.
Student unions said the police were "fabricating a charge" and accused "the Carrie Lam regime and its lackeys" of "attempting to silence the opposing voices".
Police said 148 people were arrested during running battles with protesters on Monday as the city buckled under a general strike followed by clashes at more than a dozen locations in the former British colony.
Police stations were a particular target, with protesters hurling stones, eggs and bottles, and using giant improvised slingshots to catapult bricks over walls.
An apartment complex that houses police officers and their families also came under attack.