HONG KONG -- Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday that the Chinese military could step in if an uprising for democratic reforms that has rocked the city for months "becomes so bad" but said the government still hopes to resolve the crisis itself.
Lam urged foreign critics to accept that the four months of protests marked by escalating violence were no longer "a peaceful movement for democracy."
She said seeking Chinese intervention was provided for under Hong Kong's constitution but that she cannot reveal under what circumstances she would do so.
"I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. That is also the position of the central government, that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own, but if the situation becomes so bad, then no options could be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance," she said at a news conference.
The protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial but have since morphed into a larger anti-government movement. Protesters say the bill is an example of Beijing's increasing influence over the former British colony, which was promised a high level of autonomy when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The unrest has pummeled tourism and hurt businesses in the global financial hub, further bruising the city's economy as it grapples with the effects of the U.S.-China trade war.
President Donald Trump on Monday urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to ensure a "humane solution" in Hong Kong. He warned that any "bad" outcome could hurt trade talks ahead of negotiations in Washington on Thursday.