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China warns Hong Kong protesters as protest momentum falters

Pro-democracy demonstrations continue in Hong KongPro-democracy demonstrations continue in Hong Kong
A pro-democracy demonstrator sleeps on the road outside the Government Complex in Hong Kong. Protesters continued to block main transport routes after a peaceful night of demonstrations. Anadolu Agency--Getty Images

The Chinese government issued a stern warning to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and declared its full support for the local government head whom the protesters want to depose.

The warning spooked global financial markets, appearing to raise the risk of a violent confrontation if the protesters follow through with threats to occupy government buildings from Thursday if CY Leung fails to step down. Beijing had warned Wednesday of “unimaginable consequences” if that happens.

Asian stock markets, under pressure anyway from Wednesday’s sell-off in the U.S., fell heavily again, with the Japanese Nikkei index shedding 2.6%. European stock markets also opened lower, and crude oil futures hit a new four-year low, while safe-haven flows drove yields on German and Spanish government bonds to new historic lows.

An editorial on the front page of the official party newspaper, the People’s Daily, accused the student-led protests of “disrupting the social order, affecting the lives of Hong Kong people” and violating Hong Kong’s traditional of the rule of law. It said “the central government has full confidence in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying” and added that the “central basic policy towards Hong Kong has not changed and will not change.”

The editorial was published just as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the U.S. and other countries not to meddle in China’s internal affairs.

Local media reports indicated that the number of people out on the streets of Hong Kong hadn’t dropped significantly on what was the sixth day of protests against Beijing’s plans to force all candidates for the next elections to city’s government to be pre-screened by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

However, there were signs of frustration with the protesters among the famously commercial population of the former British colony, mainly because of the hit that business is taking due to the shutdown of key areas of the city.

Analysts said the authorities in Beijing appear to be content to let the protests run out of steam under pressure, among other things, from local business that has argued strenuously against the protests for months already.

Twitter analytics appeared to suggest that the initial surge of global interest through social media was waning.