The Chinese official responsible for overseeing Hong Kong says the Asian financial hub is facing its "most severe situation" since Britain handed over control in 1997.
At a conference Wednesday in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the government's Hong Kong and Macao affairs office, told hundreds of attendees the increasingly violent protests are having a wide impact on the Chinese territory's society.
Everyday life in Hong Kong has come to a standstill after several weeks of massive street demonstrations that began in June, with angry residents protesting an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. The bill has since been suspended, but the demonstrations have continued and evolved into calls for greater democracy.
Chinese authorities Wednesday posted video online of thousands of police officers staging an anti-riot drill in Shenzhen.
Yang Guang, the spokesman for the Hong Kong affairs office, told reporters in Beijing Tuesday it is "only a matter of time" before the leaders of the massive protests face punishment.
Yang said a small group of criminals has pushed Hong Kong into "a dangerous abyss," and warned the group not to "misjudge the situation and mistake our restraint for weakness." He also warned that "those who play with fire will perish by it."