Several prominent pro-democracy figures have warned that Beijing is using Hong Kong as a testing ground for its "sharp power" – as opposed to soft power – before extending these tools to other parts of the world.
The activists, including Demosisto's Joshua Wong and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan, have formed a new group called Hong Kong Civil Hub.
On Thursday, the group issued a report on this so-called sharp power, co-authored by one of the Occupy Central founders, Chinese University sociology scholar Chan Kin-man.
Chan told RTHK's Priscilla Ng that China is dropping the soft power measures it has traditionally used to boost the country's image, and is now changing direction.
"They may use something, even if it is not directly coercion, but a kind of influence to obtain its purpose, for example, by harassment or containment, so that the opposition forces find they have less and less space to express themselves or do anything against the government," Chan said.
"We witness all these kind of changes and naturally, we think Hong Kong is moving towards the direction of a more authoritarian regime. But it is also possible that it is China that is exerting pressure on the Hong Kong government to do something in order to tighten up the grip on Hong Kong."
Chan added that it's possible that China will adopt the same tactics all over the world "to deal with its enemies".