Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has issued warning to protesters not to push the city into an emptiness.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday Ms Lam warned that Hong Kong had “reached [a] dangerous situation” and that violence during protests would push it “down a path of no return”.
She was met with hostility as she dodged questions by reporters, who repeatedly shouted and cut her off.
The city has been under mass unrest for 10 weeks and shows no signs of abating. The protests began in response to a proposed extradition bill, which has now been suspended.
The protest have now evolved into a more demanding pro-democracy movement, fuelled by fear that the freedoms Hong Kong enjoys as a special administrative region of China are being eroded.
“The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached [a] dangerous situation,” said Ms Lam, according to AFP news agency.
Ms Lam evaded a question on whether she had the autonomy to completely withdraw the extradition bill, a key demand of protesters, saying she had answered it in the past.
She said she was “heartbroken” by reports of serious injuries at last weekend’s protests, but appeared to defend the police from claims they used disproportionate force, saying they were acting under “extremely difficult circumstances”.
Ms Lam’s comment is coming a day after protesters occupied the city’s international airport, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.
Authorities said on Tuesday that operations have resumed, but warned flights would still be affected.
Addressing police actions towards protesters, Ms Lam said police operations could not have been “determined by someone like myself”, adding that they had to make “on the spot judgments”.
She added that her role was to “ensure that Hong Kong remains a safe and orderly” city.
“After the violence has been stopped and the chaotic situation subsides… I will be responsible [for] rebuilding Hong Kong’s economy, to listen as attentively as possible to my people’s grievances and try to help Hong Kong to move on,” she said.
The press pack’s frustration boiled over as the city’s leader left the podium.
According to AFP, one journalist demanded, “Do you have a conscience?” and another shouted, “Mrs Lam, many citizens have been asking recently when you will die.”