The crisis created by the latest escalation of the Hong Kong protests must be brought to an end without bloodshed and as quickly as humanly possible.
The longer it drags on, the more likely it is hardliners in the politburo and extremists within the protest movement will be able to provoke a bloodbath that will shatter the "one country, two systems" policy forever and do mortal damage to China's relations with the west.
With elements within the Chinese government already moving to portray the pro-democracy protests as the result of meddling by the US and its allies, the stage is being set for a Draconian response.
This is borne out by reports of tanks and troops massing at the border in Shenzen and claims the escalation in protest activity that resulted in the closure of the airport for two days this week was an act of terrorism.
The warnings could not be clearer with Hu Xijin, the editor of a state-run Chinese newspaper, quoted as saying: "If the violent elements in Hong Kong... fail to see the signal of the gathering of armed police in Shenzen, their actions will be self-destructive... [it would be] easy for the state to smash the set of thugs [in Hong Kong]".
This is a thinly veiled threat that unless the tens of thousands of people who have bought much of the city, and now the airport, to a stand still stand down we could see a repeat of the level of state violence unleashed on the Beijing protesters three decades ago.
Western leaders are on notice to be careful in what they say.
Regardless of whether or not China's claims foreign actors have helped drive the rise of what, to outsiders at least, seems an entirely homegrown protest movement, are true, western leaders are on notice to be careful in what they say.
It would be less than helpful, given the concerns being vented in this country over serious allegations about Chinese interference in our political processes, if Australian politicians or diplomats inadvertently gave Beijing grounds to accuse us of fomenting civil unrest on Chinese soil.
And that, for better or worse, is exactly what Hong Kong is. It has been sovereign Chinese territory, albeit administered under the "one state, two systems" principle, ever since Britain, the former colonial power, handed it back in 1997.
Ongoing friction between residents and the Beijing-leaning government came to a head earlier this year when the territory's leader, Carrie Lam, introduced legislation to allow people accused of breaking the law to be sent to the mainland China for trial.
The practical effect would be alleged transgressors could find themselves subject to indefinite detention and imprisonment.
All of that said, it was right and proper for Scott Morrison to reject Chinese claims the protesters were terrorists using language was loaded with diplomatic restraint. "That's certainly not the rhetoric I would use to describe these events," he said.
While his call for the Chinese government to listen "carefully to what people are saying" was timely, it is difficult to see an obvious way forward.
While the protesters have had a win in that Lam has said the controversial legislation is "dead", it has not been formally withdrawn as the protesters asked.
The Chinese government, on the other hand, will not tolerate continued footage of civil unrest from Hong Kong being broadcast into hundreds of millions of homes on the mainland indefinitely. Who knows where that could lead?
An effective first step might be for Lam to formally withdraw her proposed law, paving the way for a peaceful de-escalation.
The bleak alternative is an outbreak of state-sponsored violence the likes of which has not been seen for decades.