The National:

THE head of China’s cabinet office responsible for Hong Kong has said the territory is facing its “most severe situation” since the handover from British rule in 1997.

Zhang Xiaoming spoke about the crisis at a seminar in the mainland city of Shenzhen, attended by Hong Kong residents.

He said the central government is “highly concerned” over two months of street protests against the administration of the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and is considering further measures.

The protests are becoming more violent and having “an increasingly broad impact on society”, Zhang said. They were triggered by proposed extradition legislation that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be sent to China.

Yesterday, several hundred lawyers sought a meeting with justice chief Teresa Cheng, and staged a silent protest. Authorities have refused to open a dialogue with protesters and there was no immediate response from Cheng’s office.

Margaret Ng, a lawyer and a former lawmaker, said they wanted to meet Cheng and the director of public prosecution to seek an assurance that there was no political motive in prosecution of those people who had been detained in the protests.

Some 500 people have been arrested since the demonstrations began in June and dozens have already been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

ELSEWHERE, Pakistan is downgrading diplomatic ties with India and suspending bilateral trade in response to New Delhi’s decision to eliminate the special status and statehood of Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both countries.

Foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told parliament that Pakistan will expel the Indian ambassador. The decision to downgrade relations was made at a meeting of Pakistan’s National Security Committee led by prime minister Imran Khan (pictured) and attended by heads of the armed forces and government officials.

The National: FILE - Imran Khan's PTI Party Claims Win In Pakistan Election ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 22: Pakistani opposition politician and cricket legend, Imran Khan, speaks out against President Pervez Musharraf and emergency rule at a press conference Nov

The government said in a statement that Pakistan will review other aspects of its relations with India as well.

It also decided to ask the UN to pressure India to reverse its decision to downgrade the Indian-administered portion of Muslim-majority Kashmir from a state to two separate territories.

The region also lost its right to fly its own flag and make many of its own decisions.

MEANWHILE, Greek search crews have found the body of a British scientist who went missing while on holiday on the Aegean island of Ikaria in a ravine near where she had been staying, authorities said.

Police said the body of Cyprus-based astrophysicist Natalie Christopher, 34, was found in a 65ft-deep ravine. She had been reported missing on Monday by her Cypriot partner after she went for a morning run. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Police, firefighters, volunteers and the coastguard scoured the area where Ms Christopher had been, which has paths along ravines and steep seaside cliffs.

AND finally, a millionaire charged with strangling his wife in California has been captured after four years on the run. Peter Chadwick – a US citizen born in the UK – was arrested by immigration officials in Mexico on Sunday. He was deported to the US where prosecutors hope he will stand trial for the murder of Quee Choo Chadwick.