China's ruling party mouthpiece has warned of "chaos" and expressed strong support for Hong Kong's embattled leader in his faceoff with pro-democracy protesters who have threatened to occupy government offices unless he steps down by the end of today. The People's Daily said in a commentary that the "central government fully trusts Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and is very satisfied with his work." It added that it firmly supports the Hong Kong police—criticized for using tear gas and pepper spray on the protesters last weekend—"to handle illegal activities in accordance with the law."
The weeklong street protests by thousands of demonstrators pressing for freer elections in Hong Kong are the biggest challenge to Beijing's authority since China took control of the former British colony in 1997, and the Chinese government appears to be losing patience. An editorial read on state TV last night said all Hong Kong residents should support authorities in their efforts to "deploy police enforcement decisively" and "restore the social order in Hong Kong as soon as possible." Raising the stakes in the standoff, student leaders have demanded that Leung resign by midnight tonight. If he doesn't, they say they will step up their actions, including occupying government buildings, raising the specter of another clash with police. Since Monday, the protests have been peaceful—and exceptionally polite. (Read more Hong Kong stories.)