Beijing has warned Hong Kong's pan-democrats that using mass protests to confront the central government would be a "misjudgment".
The strongly worded remarks came as the United Nations Human Rights Committee's latest report on Hong Kong expressed concern about "the lack of a clear plan to institute universal suffrage and to ensure the right of all persons to vote and to stand for election without unreasonable limitations".
The Global Times newspaper, affiliated with Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, dared the pan-democrats to try pushing Hong Kong to "economic suicide" - apparently referring to the Occupy Central campaign.
Beijing pledged in 2007 that the city's chief executive would be democratically elected as early as 2017, and the campaign plans, as a last resort, to block traffic in the city's central business district next year to press for true universal suffrage.
The Global Times wrote: "The pan-democracy camp … should not be under the illusion that they can control Hong Kong's political development. Confronting the central government is not an option if Hong Kong is to survive. China has adequate power to stop Hong Kong [from] ... becoming a threat."
The editorial added: "Those who want to threaten the central government by trying to mess up Hong Kong should recognise that the losses brought about to Hong Kong by their act would be much bigger than those the rest of China would suffer.
"If they believe [Hongkongers will support them] in using 'economic suicide' as a political gamble, let them try and see."
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the editorial showed Beijing was determined to have full control over the election. "Beijing will not back down even though this could give rise to instability and economic losses in Hong Kong," said Lau, citing his recent contacts with his Beijing sources. "The Global Times comes under the People's Daily. I would be surprised if it is not reflecting Beijing's official views on the issue," he added.
Hong Kong lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, who is also a National People's Congress (NPC) deputy, said: "We have to follow the Basic Law when planning universal suffrage. But [the pan-democrats] do not want to follow the Basic Law. That is why Beijing expresses concern."
Qiao Xiaoyang, chairman of the NPC's Law Committee, told Beijing-loyalist lawmakers in Shenzhen on Sunday that under the "one country, two systems" formula, a chief executive had to "love China and love Hong Kong", and that Beijing had the final say on who is appointed.
The Alliance for True Democracy - which includes the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers - yesterday challenged Qiao to come to Hong Kong for an open debate on "true universal suffrage".
Legislator and executive councillor Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Beijing-loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was reasonable for Beijing to expect Hong Kong's future leader to be patriotic. She expressed worries Hong Kong could end up without universal suffrage if Beijing and the pan-democrats refused to compromise.