Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam admitted on Tuesday that the Chinese military could intervene in the territory if the violence of the protests worsens, but reiterated that the government still hopes to resolve the crisis.
Lam urged foreign critics to accept that the four months of protests marked by escalating violence can no longer be characterized as "a peaceful movement for democracy."
The head of government said the possibility of Hong Kong asking for Chinese intervention is envisaged in the mini-constitution of the territory, the Basic Law, but did not indicate under what circumstances it could do so.
"I still strongly feel that we should find solutions. This is also the position of the [Chinese] central government that Hong Kong should solve the problem on its own, but if the situation gets worse no option can be ruled out if we want it to be." Hong Kong has at least one other opportunity, "he said at a press conference.
The protests began in June over a proposed amendment to a law that would allow extradited criminal suspects to territory and countries without prior agreements, such as China, but soon turned into an anti-government and pro-democracy movement.
Protesters said they feared the proposal, which the Hong Kong government had since abandoned, was another example of Beijing's growing influence over the former British colony, which was promised a high level of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The contest had a strong impact on local tourism and hurt businesses in the international financial center, further damaging the city's economy as it faces the effects of the US / China trade war.
In a tightening of the government's stance over the protests last week, Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency law to criminalize the use of masks in demonstrations, but the ruling appears to have escalated violence, which intensified over the weekend.
Last week police first fired real bullets at protesters, injuring two teenagers.
Enforcement of the mask ban began on Saturday, and Lam said it was too early to assess whether the measure had failed. To date, two young men have been accused of violating the ban, which could result in a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of almost three thousand euros.
Critics fear that the law invoked, which gives Lam broad decision-making powers beyond the legislative policy process, could pave the way for the declaration of a state of emergency. The head of government said the government would make a "careful assessment" before imposing other legal measures, such as restrictions or blockages on the Internet.
Lam also pledged to continue the dialogue and take steps to address economic and livelihood problems in the policy speech to be held on 16 October, when work is resumed in the Legislative Council, the Hong Parliament. Kong.
Protesters stormed and damaged the Legislative Council building on July 1. Lam called for peace at the opening of the legislative session, warning that further interruptions would delay the approval of bills and impede the development of the city.