Chinese president Xi Jinping on Wednesday denounced the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong as an "illegal" campaign, in his first public comment on the protests that have blocked major highways in a bid for genuine universal suffrage over the past six weeks.
"Law and order must be maintained according to law in any place, not just in Hong Kong, but anywhere in the world," Xi said during a joint news conference with visiting U.S. President Barack Obama that wrapped up the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leadership summit.
Xi also repeated allegations of "foreign interference" in the protests, a claim that has been made repeatedly by commentators in the ruling Chinese Communist Party's tightly controlled media.
Obama denied any U.S. involvement, although he said Washington will continue to make the case for fair and transparent elections in the former British colony, which was promised a "high degree of autonomy" under the terms of its 1997 handover to Chinese rule.
"I was unequivocal in saying to President Xi that the U.S. had no involvement in fostering the protests that took place in Hong Kong," Obama told reporters after their formal talks.
"These are issues ultimately for the people of Hong Kong and China to decide," he said.
In Hong Kong, student leaders of the Occupy Central protests said they would extend their occupation to roads surrounding the city's British consulate in anger at a lack of support from London since the campaign began on Sept. 28 with police using tear-gas and pepper spray.
Hong Kong officials have told the protesters to leave, saying that Beijing won't withdraw an Aug. 31 decision ruling out the public nomination of candidates in the 2017 election for chief executive.
China's parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), said that while Hong Kong's five million voters will cast a ballot to elect the next chief executive, they may only choose between two or three candidates approved by a pro-Beijing committee.
Protesters and pan-democratic politicians, who currently only have around seven percent of the nominating committee vote compared with 56 percent of the popular vote in the last legislative election, have dismissed the proposed electoral reforms as "fake universal suffrage."
Hong Kong activists are angry at the British government for failing to stand up to Beijing over what they say are breaches of a 1983 treaty setting out the terms of the handover.
"We are angry at the way that the British government has for many years denied that China has actually breached the declaration by interfering with Hong Kong politics," Anna-Kate Choi, coordinator of the Occupy British Consulate group, told Agence France-Presse.
"They have the responsibility to make sure that the joint declaration has been implemented properly and that democracy and the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong have been protected," Choi said.
Activists have put up large posters around the protest areas announcing the consulate occupation on Nov. 21. The British consulate has declined to comment on the plan.
Some posters for the British consulate occupation read: "China breaches the  Joint Declaration: U.K. government respond now!" with the pro-democracy movement's umbrella symbol emblazoned with the British flag.
Hong Kong's High Court has extended civil injunctions calling for the removal of barricades and other obstructions at two out of three sites where Occupy protesters are encamped in tents and have vowed to remain until the Aug. 31 ruling is rescinded.
Some are also calling for the resignation of embattled chief executive Leung Chun-ying, now deeply unpopular over the use of tear gas on Sept. 28 and his comments about preventing those with low incomes from dominating Hong Kong politics.
Police have been authorized to arrest anyone obstructing court bailiffs, who are expected to start a clear-out operation on specific stretches of highway in Kowloon's Mong Kok shopping district and near government headquarters in Admiralty district.
Local media reports say thousands of police officers have been put on standby over the weekend after transportation industry groups successfully extended the injunctions, saying they are losing business because key tram and bus routes are blocked.
Meanwhile, anti-Occupy protesters say public support is growing for an end to the protests.
Last week, the anti-Occupy Alliance for Peace and Democracy handed a petition containing 1.83 million signatures of Hong Kong citizens who oppose the protests, saying it reflects mainstream public opinion and a desire for the restoration of public order.
But Kwok Ka-ki, a lawmaker who represents Hong Kong's medical profession, said many of the signatures collected were dubious, including obviously joke names.
"I don't have much faith in this poll," Kwok told RFA on Wednesday. "It's not accurate, not scientific, and those who signed it don't represent Hong Kong people."
He said the basic desire of Hong Kong for genuine universal suffrage had been largely ignored by the city's political establishment.
"To take these signatures as support for the 'fake universal suffrage' proposals of Aug. 31 is to mislead the public and the citizens of Hong Kong," Kwok said.
Pan-democratic lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung said pro-democracy campaigners still have other options open to them and called on the government to include such actions in future reports to Beijing.
"We can vote, we can march and stage political actions," Leung said. "I don't think that petition was representative of the voice of the majority in Hong Kong."
"The students and other citizens are using the Occupy movement in the hope that Beijing will understand and respond to their demands."
Attack on media mogul
Meanwhile, anti-Occupy protesters threw rotting animal parts at pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, whose outspoken Apple Daily newspaper has already been repeatedly targeted by hacker attacks, an eyewitness told RFA.
Three men ambushed Lai, cursed at Lai and told him to "drop dead" before they threw several bags of animal organs at his head.
"Some people threw some stuff at Mr. Lai," an eyewitness told RFA. "It really stank; it was rotten offal."
"Then they left, and the police chased after them."
A police spokesman said two men had been slightly injured in the assault, and one had been taken to the hospital, but that no arrests had been made.
Reported by Lin Jing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.