China remains mum amid Hong Kong's worst uprising in decades, but as pro-democracy protesters prepare for the long haul, speculation over how mainland authorities will tackle the issue is mounting.
Although the risk of international criticism would likely deter China from intervening with force, analysts say President Xi Jinping will be keen to maintain his reputation as a strong leader with zero tolerance for unrest, putting him in a tricky position.
The week-old nonviolent protest escalated on Sunday when riot police baton-charged protesters and volleyed tear gas, alarming Hong Kong residents who are not used to such heavy-handed approach.
"The Chinese leadership... has to find a way of conveying to the Chinese public that these demonstrations are minor and of no consequence. Right now, that can't be easy," Russell Leigh Moses, dean of academics and faculty at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies told CNBC.
China's Communist Party has long suppressed anti-government views through censorship, arrests, and armed forces. In 1989, a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square deeply scarred China's reputation abroad and authorities will want to avoid repeating this incident.
But in Hong Kong, which is officially ruled by China under the "one country, two systems" formula, different rules apply. Residents have more freedom than their mainland counterparts and can express their views without punishment or censorship. However, their elective process is still controlled by China - a point of contention that underlies current unrest.
The 'demonstration effect'
The Chinese government is clearly worried about anti-government sentiment in Hong Kong spreading to the mainland, analysts told CNBC.
Chinese authorities have attempted to censor news of the uprising since Sunday, blocking access to Instagram, where protesters have shared photos, and restricting certain internet search terms.
"Chinese leaders are very concerned about the 'demonstration effect' in China," Joseph Y.S. Cheng, professor for the Contemporary China Research Project at the City University of Hong Kong, told CNBC.
"[They] have probably planned the anti-Occupy Central campaign for a long time," he said. "I believe they have full confidence of cracking down, it's a matter of timing and tactics."