Chinese diplomat says Hong Kong facing worst crisis since 1997 handover

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a press conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (not pictured) and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (not pictured) after the ninth trilateral foreign ministers' meeting among China, South Korea and Japan at Gubei Town in Beijing, China, 21 August 2019. Wu Hong/Pool via REUTERS

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi told a Hong Kong business delegation that more support should be given to the city’s government to end violence that has evolved into the biggest crisis it has faced since the return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong has been engulfed in angry and sometimes violent protests against the government for three months, sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill and concerns that Beijing was trying to bring the territory under greater mainland control.

Police fired water cannon and tear gas at anti-government demonstrators on Sunday, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam later warned that authorities would be forced to stamp down on the escalating violence.

The China Daily warned in an editorial that the gap between the government and protesters appeared to be “unbridgeable”, with the administration not able to “swallow the pills the demonstrators prescribe”.

However, Wang said in Beijing on Tuesday that, while Hong Kong was facing its most serious challenge since the handover, it was capable of overcoming its problems with the support of the government and the unity of Hong Kong residents.

According to a notice on China’s official government website, Wang said business groups should also play a positive role by helping young people take part in the city’s economic development.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait