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China’s President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (left). Photo: Reuters
China’s President Xi Jinping (right) shakes hands with Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying (left). Photo: Reuters

Xi supports Hong Kong democracy ‘Within Law,’ city’s chief says

The 'Occupy' protests have impacted Hong Kong's rule of law, while also reflecting different views on electoral reforms, says Hong Kong chief executive

Hong Kong: Chinese President Xi Jinping told Hong Kong’s leader that the nation supports the city’s democratic development “within the law," chief executive Leung Chun-ying said, as pro-democracy demonstrations entered a seventh week.

“The “Occupy" protests have impacted Hong Kong’s rule of law, while also reflecting the different views on electoral reforms," Leung said on Sunday while meeting Xi in Beijing.

Xi reiterated the nation “unwaveringly" supports Hong Kong’s democratic development in accordance with the law.

Protesters took to the streets 26 September, demanding China reverse its decision that candidates for the 2017 Hong Kong leadership election be approved by a committee. While the poll would be the first time the city’s voters could choose the chief executive, demonstrators say the vetting policy guarantees the winner would be Beijing-friendly and not necessarily look after the best interests of Hong Kong people.

“Occupy Central has impacted Hong Kong’s rule of law and severely affected social order," Leung said on Sunday.

“But I am confident that under the support of all sectors in Hong Kong, the special administrative government can handle the Occupy Central and related events by its own ability and laws."

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Article 45 of the Basic Law, the city’s de facto constitution, specifies how the chief executive should be selected, with a goal that it should be by “universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee."

Open letter

Protesters, in an open letter last week, asked Hong Kong’s former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa to arrange a meeting with Chinese officials after shelving a plan to take their complaints directly to Beijing during a summit attended by world leaders including US President Barack Obama.

Tung told student pro-democracy protesters their request doesn’t help and they should end their demonstrations now.

“The content of the letter only repeats their viewpoints and stance, and offers no help in solving the current impasse," Tung said in an e-mailed statement last night, without saying whether he would try to arrange meetings. “The central government fully grasps the opinions from different sectors in Hong Kong. The National People’s Congress Standing Committee will not change its 31 August decision."

The Hong Kong Federation of Students on Sunday urged Tung to give a clear answer as it hopes talks with China’s central government will help resolve the impasse.

First chief

“Simply asking people to retreat from protest sites will not solve the political dispute," the students said in a statement sent via Whatsapp after midnight. “The Federation of Students repeated viewpoints only because the government has never responded to Hong Kong people’s demands for true universal suffrage."

Tung, who was the city’s first chief executive, stepped down in 2005, less than two years after half a million people took to the streets to march against a security bill that threatened to stifle freedoms.

Tung is now vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top advisory body.

Hong Kong’s government signaled plans to clear the pro- democracy protests, which have dwindled to hundreds of participants from an estimate of 200,000 at its peak, according to Apple Daily on Sunday.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, the city’s No. 2 official, told police officers on 7 November that protest clearance is necessary and is in the preparation stage, the Chinese-language paper reported, without identifying where it got the information.

Other attempts

The police’s public relations department didn’t immediately comment on the report when contacted by phone on Sunday. Lam’s office hasn’t yet responded to e-mailed questions.

Student leaders have previously appealed to politicians to help arrange meetings with China, with little success.

The protesters had shelved plans to send representatives to Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which takes place this week in the Chinese capital.

Any such trips will happen after Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, the students have said.

The federation will send another open letter to Rita Fan, Hong Kong’s deputy to China’s National People’s Congress, for aid on arranging meetings with officials in Beijing, Ming Pao reported on Sunday, citing its secretary-general Alex Chow. Bloomberg

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