The Communist Party has always been aware of the power of mass protests.

Mao Zedong in 1930 famously used the traditional saying: “a single spark can start a prairie fire” to remind fellow Communists the power of strikes and uprisings when they were a fledgling opposition party under the one-party Nationalist rule.

Today, Chinese leaders are likely to take a much grimmer view when they see images of millions protesting a controversial law in Hong Kong this month.

Rocked by its biggest political crisis in decades, millions have thronged to the streets to protest a proposed law allowing for the extradition of individuals to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters last week that it was “highly alarming that Western forces have been stirring up trouble and provoking confrontation in an attempt to undermine Hong Kong’s peace and stability.”

Casting protests as conspiracies fomented by “Western hostile forces” is a narrative that is not new for the Chinese government.

The 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, eventually crushed by the military, was labelled as a plot backed by Western powers to topple communist rule. The 500,000-strong protest in Hong Kong against a proposed subversion law in 2003 and the 79-day “Umbrella” civil disobedience movement in 2014 were also similarly blamed on “foreign forces” set to undermine China.

Amid the recent protests, a Hong Kong representative to the Chinese parliament warned of “foreign forces’ interference” and warned people not to become “pawns” in the US-China trade war.

“According to the Communist ideology, ‘We are the people’s representatives’, so the party cannot accept people rising up against it and forcing it to back down,” said Joseph Cheng, retired political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

The authorities also have a deep-rooted tendency to blame problems on foreign interference instead of their own governance weaknesses, political commentator and veteran journalist Ching Cheong said.

“China sees Hong Kong as influenced by years of colonial rule and having no sense of responsibility to introduce laws to protect the national security or to help the country nab fugitives,” said Ching. “And they believe that hostile forces are using ‘colour revolution’ to subvert China through Hong Kong.”

Chinese leaders have many times warned against “colour revolution” – movements that lead to regime changes through non-violent resistance – and Chinese President Xi Jinping in January warned officials to be vigilant against political risks that could threaten the Communist Party’s rule.

“The Communist Party fears mass protests,” said Willy Lam, a China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who said Xi was particularly frightened of unpredictable events that could disturb the stats quo.

After the current crisis, analysts believe the Hong Kong government will likely start a new round of retaliatory measures against its critics while the Chinese government will tighten its grip on the city.

“They will definitely seek revenge, otherwise they can’t justify themselves as an effectual regime,” said Lam.

Analysts expect that the Hong Kong government will widen the prosecution of people active in the protests. Last week, the police said 32 people had been arrested over the recent demonstrations and five have been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment.

Analysts also expect the government to continue weakening the pro-democracy camp by disqualifying more of its election candidates. Six members of the legislature have already been ousted and candidates seen as pro-independent have been prevented from running for public office.

And Beijing will likely try to assume more power over Hong Kong, speed up its integration with China, and intensify ideological education, analysts say.

“China will step up its intervention. Like after the 2003 protest, China will watch more closely,” said Cheng.

At China’s behest, Hong Kong has already put in place a number of infrastructure projects that aid integration with the mainland, such as a bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Southern China’s Greater Bay Area, and a multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail linking the city and mainland cities. And more resources will likely be dedicated to initiatives to fuel patriotism, such as stepping up ideological education among youngsters, analysts say.

Having antagonised not only the pro-democracy camp, but also the business community and even pro-government politicians in the recent crisis, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam will lean even more heavily on her Beijing masters for support, Cheng said. “She will get even closer to China,” he said.

But in the absence of any real solution to address Hong Kong people’s plights for democracy and more freedoms, these strategies will only deepen Hong Kong’s political crisis and more angry outbursts of discontent are expected on the streets.

“The crux of the issue is that there is no democracy and there are no checks and balances so bigger mistakes will occur,” warned Cheng. “Conflicts will keep accumulating and one day these will explode.”