WASHINGTON — The White House is watching democracy protests in Hong Kong closely and supports the “aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

“The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people,” said Earnest, who also urged restraint on both sides.

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered for a fourth night in the capitalist hub of more than 7 million people, defying tear gas and police batons as the Communist government in Beijing made clear it would not tolerate dissent.

Protesters want open nominations for candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election. China’s parliament endorsed a framework ensuring only pro-Beijing candidates.

“We believe that the basic legitimacy of the chief executive in Hong Kong will be greatly enhanced if the Basic Law’s ultimate aim of selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage is fulfilled,” Earnest said at a daily briefing.

“We have consistently made our position known to Beijing, and will continue to do so,” Earnest said.

Beijing has warned against foreign interference in the protests.

Earnest also criticized the Chinese government’s efforts to try to stop demonstrators and others from reporting news about the protests.

“I read reports today that Instagram was being blocked and that there are efforts to try and censor some websites who are trying to report on the situation,” Earnest said.