A state-run Chinese newspaper Tuesday called for "coercive measures" against pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, as China's rubber-stamp legislature mulls the election method for the city's chief executive.
Lawmakers on the standing committee of the National People's Congress on Monday started reviewing a report from Hong Kong's current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on the issue, the official Xinhua news agency said earlier.
The meeting comes with public discontent in the former British colony at its highest for years over perceived interference by Beijing and growing divisions over how its next leader should be chosen in 2017.
Universal suffrage has been promised, but the pro-democracy Occupy Central group has pledged to mobilise thousands of protesters to block the financial district later this year if authorities reject a public right to nominate candidates for the post, currently chosen by a pro-Beijing committee.
Beijing and city officials have criticised the Occupy Central movement as illegal, radical and potentially violent.
The Global Times, which is owned by the Communist Party's mouthpiece the People's Daily and often adopts a nationalist tone, called on authorities to take a hard line against protest, urging Beijing not to give in to pressure.
"If these activities pose a shocking threat to Hong Kong or continue unabated, enormously dampening the city's functions, it is imperative that the Hong Kong government adopt coercive measures," it said in an editorial.
"Even the worst situation is much better than a constitutional crisis with the rise of a chief executive confronting Beijing that will later be compelled to outlaw him," it said.
The government must knock out the campaigners' "unrealistic illusions" and make the most aggressive activists "pay for their illegal confrontational behaviour", it said in the editorial, headlined "No compromise of rule on HK chief".
"As long as we do not allow Hong Kong to fall into the Western sphere of influence, the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong will have inexhaustible resources to make extreme opposition groups and their supporting forces desperate," it added.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain on July 1, 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement, which allows residents civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.