A spokesman for China's Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the behavior of some demonstrators during months-long protests in Hong Kong has been "absolutely intolerable" amid fears that Beijing's military could step in to control the tumult in the semi-autonomous region.
In response to a reporter's question about how the ministry would respond to rising "independence forces" in Hong Kong, Wu Qian did not explicitly state what might happen but pointed to Article 14 of Hong Kong's Garrison law.
The article specifies that Hong Kong’s government may ask for assistance from Chinese military troops stationed in the city “in the maintenance of public order” or for disaster relief. If Beijing approves the request for help, the troops will perform the tasks and return to their stations once completed.
Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets in droves since early last month to protest an extradition bill and call for democratic reforms. After the end of a pro-democracy march that drew more than 100,000 people on Sunday, some demonstrators directed their anger at the Liaison Office, which represents China’s Communist Party-led central government in Hong Kong.
Protesters threw eggs and splattered black ink on the Chinese national emblem on the building’s veneer – acts that Beijing condemned as "violent."
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. Under the so-called "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong has certain freedoms not afforded mainland citizens, but residents say those liberties have been eroded in recent years as Beijing's role in its affairs has grown.
Fox News' Morgan Cheung and the Associated Press contributed to this report.