Beijing: The unrest in Hong Kong has "seriously challenged" the "one country, two systems" principle governing the semi-autonomous city, China's President Xi Jinping said on Thursday in comments reported by Chinese state media.
Pro-democracy protesters choked the city with barricades and rallies for a fourth straight day on Thursday, days after police shot a protester with a live round and a man expressing pro-Beijing views was set on fire.
Xi said Beijing "firmly supports" Hong Kong's government and police and that "stopping violence and controlling chaos while restoring order is currently Hong Kong's most urgent task", the People's Daily reported.
Recent actions by protesters have "seriously challenged the baseline principle of 'one country, two systems'", Xi said in rare comments on the violence in Hong Kong at a summit of BRICS countries in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia.
Xi said the most pressing task at present is to bring violence and chaos to an end and restore order, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi said the continuous radical violent activities in Hong Kong seriously trampled the rule of law and the social order, seriously disturb Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and seriously challenge the "one country, two systems" bottom line, the report said. He reiterated that it remains the most pressing task for Hong Kong to bring violence and chaos to an end and restore order.
"We will continue to firmly support the chief executive in leading the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government to govern in accordance with the law, firmly support the Hong Kong police in strictly enforcing the law, and firmly support the Hong Kong judicial bodies in severely punishing the violent criminals in accordance with the law," Xi said.
This is the first time Xi, regarded as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, spoke directly about the situation in Hong Kong, the former British colony handed over to Beijing in 1997. Xi currently heads the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC), the military besides the Presidency with prospects of a lifelong tenure in power.
Last month during his visit to Nepal, Xi was quoted as saying that any attempts to drive a wedge between China and its territories will "end in crushed bodies and shattered bones".
"Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones," media reports quoted him as saying. He, however, did not name any particular province or region.
Protests have rocked Hong Kong for nearly six months. Initially focused on opposition to a proposed extradition law, protestors' demands have evolved into broader calls for democracy and investigations into police violence.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" policy which gives the territory rights unseen on the mainland -- freedoms protesters say are being steadily eroded by Beijing.
Clashes between protestors and police escalated after the recent death of a student who succumbed to head injuries sustained during a fall as police skirmished with demonstrators inside a car park.