Hong Kong is facing its biggest crisis since it returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, the head of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs office said on Wednesday.
Zhang Xiaoming, one of the most senior Chinese officials overseeing Hong Kong affairs, made the comments during a meeting in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
Hong Kong has faced months of sometimes violent protests that began with opposition to a now-suspended extradition law, which would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts.
But the protests have broadened into a backlash against the government of the Asian financial hub, fuelled by many residents’ fears of eroding freedoms under the tightening control of China’s Communist Party leaders in Beijing.
Hong Kong lawyers dressed in black are set to march in silence later on Wednesday to call on the government to safeguard the independence of the city’s justice department.
Protesters also plan to surround Hong Kong’s Revenue Tower on Wednesday. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in Sham Shui Po, one of the city’s poorest districts, late on Tuesday.