Any attempt to block major thoroughfares in Central will lead to serious consequences and will not be tolerated, Commissioner of Police Andy Tsang Wai-hung has said in response to a planned civil-disobedience movement.
Tsang warned people to think twice about joining the "Occupy Central" protest next year, which organisers said would be the last resort to force Beijing to grant the city full democracy.
Separately, Beijing loyalists also spoke up against the Occupy Central movement, while a former top adviser to the colonial government who believed Hong Kong was ready for universal suffrage expressed support for the city's democracy demands.
At the centre of the debate is a plan mooted by University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting on March 8 to up the ante in the call for democracy that will include a massive protest to block roads in the business district. Tai is expected to announce the details next week.
Yesterday, Tsang reminded people who were mulling "any collective act to hold up traffic unlawfully" of "the legal liability that may arise". Such acts would not be tolerated, he said.
"For those who are still thinking of taking part in such unlawful activities, I would urge them to think carefully about the effect that such a blockade or chaos might have on other members of the public," he said.
The police chief issued his warning on the same day that Ng Hon-mun, former National People's Congress deputy, described Occupy Central as no more than "a juicy slogan" of the moment.
"Proponents of the plan are not looking for a peaceful demonstration … but to paralyse Hong Kong," Ng wrote in his column with Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao.
"They know they cannot force Beijing to change its mind by themselves. The plan, hence, aims to draw the world's attention and force Beijing to yield under international pressure."
Universal suffrage for chief executive "is not unconditional" and "a process to ferment the right candidates is necessary", he said, citing the Basic Law.
Lau Nai-keung, a member of the Basic Law Committee, also urged Beijing to declare its stance against Occupy Central.
Leo Goodstadt, head of the Central Policy Unit from 1989 to 1997, gave his own take on democracy for the city: "Suddenly some people say no, Hong Kong people are not ready. But how come we are not ready while India and Britain can vote? Is it that we are not as smart as the British? We want universal suffrage."
Beijing should not worry about how patriotic candidates of the 2017 chief executive poll would be, since Hong Kong had spoken through "action rather than words". He said: "I don't know anyone in Hong Kong who doesn't love Hong Kong and China. Hong Kong people actually co-operated in the change of sovereignty to make the most trouble-free transition possible."