Beijing (AFP) - Chinese state media have ramped up the rhetoric against Hong Kong's pro-democracy campaigners, describing them on Tuesday as "mobsters", warning they must never be appeased and raising the spectre of mainland security forces intervening to quash them.
On Monday, Beijing described unrest and clashes in Hong Kong -- which started as opposition to a proposed extradition law but morphed into calls for democratic reform -- as "terrorism emerging".
Chinese state media has repeatedly issued harsh criticism of the protests, which are the biggest threat to Beijing's rule in the semi-autonomous city since the handover in 1997.
The official state news agency Xinhua warned in a commentary Tuesday that "violent radicals" were pushing Hong Kong into an "abyss" and warned there should be no compromise to their demands.
"Any connivance or support for the mobsters, any appeasement of them, or sophistry and excuses for them are an insult and defamation of the Hong Kong police force guarding their homeland," the commentary said, adding that the unrest posed "great harm to Hong Kong's overall interests".
The nationalistic tabloid The Global Times said the "most extreme demonstrators have been attacking the police and using increasingly dangerous weapons".
"Their hysterical purpose is to paralyse the SAR government and combat the authority of the police," the newspaper said in a commentary.
On its nightly news broadcast on Monday evening, state broadcaster CCTV called the protests "extreme acts of violence (which are) tantamount to blatant murder".
"Those Hong Kong chaotic elements are a sludgy, muddy water in the historical torrent, which will be cleaned up," the news anchor said.
In a video posted on its Weibo channel, a CCTV anchor warned viewers: "When dealing with terrorism, there is no soft hand."
The stern words came as videos were widely circulating on social media of Chinese military and armoured vehicles appearing to gather in the southern city of Shenzhen.
The Global Times and the People's Daily ran a minute-long video compiling clips of armoured personnel carriers and troop carriers purportedly driving to Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
The video shows roughly two dozen armoured carriers apparently driving through the southern city of Guangzhou and other troop carriers leaving eastern Fujian province.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, said on social media that the military presence is a sign that if the situation in Hong Kong doesn't improve, China will intervene.
"If the violent elements in Hong Kong do not understand this principle and fail to see the signal of the gathering of armed police in Shenzhen, their actions will be self-destructive," he wrote on Weibo, saying it was "easy for the state to smash the set of thugs" in Hong Kong.
"If they do not pull back from the cliff and continue to push the situation further beyond the critical point, the power of the state may come to Hong Kong at any time."