Hong Kong police alone can handle any incident that could potentially damage the city's law and order, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said yesterday.
Yuen's remarks came one day after the former director of Xinhua's Hong Kong branch, Zhou Nan, said "anti-China forces" were using the Occupy Central movement to try to seize control of Hong Kong's administration and that the PLA would step in if riots were to occur in the city.
"If necessary, I believe the police force is capable of handling any activities that would damage the law and order," Yuen said, reiterating a long-standing government position, while declining to make any specific comment on Zhou's remarks.
"From a legal standpoint, civil disobedience must involve a breach of law; it has always been the government's stance that we do not wish to see any unlawful act being taken," Yuen said when asked if Occupy Central would constitute "subversion of the state".
He advised those who were considering taking part to think again before joining Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement that has vowed to bring the city's commercial hub to a standstill if the government fails to come up with a satisfactory plan to implement universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election.
Civil disobedience would have a "significant impact" on Hong Kong, Yuen said.
Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-founder of Occupy Central and a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, said the organisers had always stuck to their plans despite repeated attacks from Beijing.
"This latest attack on us by Mr Zhou Nan is just one of the many [that we have witnessed] over the past 10 months or so … though this is perhaps one of the most powerful cannons fired so far, and we expect to see more suppression," Tai said yesterday at a forum on electoral reform.
At the same event, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun called for Hongkongers to cast their vote in Occupy Central's unofficial "referendum" on June 20-22.
An advert in the Catholic paper Kung Kao Po said that starting from Saturday, Zen would embark on a seven-day campaign to march in most of the city's 18 districts in order to call for Hongkongers to vote in the "referendum". Zen is expected to walk for about 12 hours and cover 20km a day.