Chinese state media yesterday vowed there “won’t be a repeat” of the Tiananmen Square crackdown if Beijing moves to quash Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
In a rare reference to the bloody incident -- which is usually taboo in mainland China -- the Global Times newspaper insisted the country had more sophisticated methods than those it employed 30 years ago to crush protests in the capital.
“The incident in Hong Kong won’t be a repeat of the June 4th political incident in 1989,” it wrote in an editorial.
“China is much stronger and more mature, and its ability to manage complex situations has been greatly enhanced.”
Hong Kong has endured 10 weeks of civil unrest, which have morphed from opposition to a hated extradition bill into a wider, and sometimes violent, call for democratic rights.
An intensifying drumbeat of propaganda and strident warnings have sparked fears that Beijing might look to intervene -- possibly militarily -- in the semi-autonomous city.
Images of flag-waving military personnel and armoured vehicles in the border city of Shenzhen this week added to those fears, with international commentators invoking spectre of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement faces a major test this weekend as it tries to muster another huge crowd following criticism over a recent violent airport protest and as concerns mount over Beijing’s next move.
Protests were sparked by opposition to a plan to allow extraditions to the mainland, but have since morphed into a wider call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city.
Millions of people have hit the streets while clashes have broken out between police and small groups of hardcore protesters for 10 consecutive weekends.
For most of that time, US President Donald Trump has taken a hands-off approach to the unrest but began speaking up this week, suggesting any potential trade deal with Beijing could be upended by a violent response from the mainland.
Speaking on Thursday, Trump urged his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to meet protesters and solve the crisis “humanely”.
Activists are now planning to hold a major rally on Sunday, which is being billed as a “rational, non-violent” protest designed to show the movement still maintains broad public support after suffering a setback earlier in the week.