China (BBN)-China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned against “illegal” protests in Hong Kong, amid major pro-democracy rallies in the territory.
Wang, in Washington, said the matter was an “internal affair” for China, reports BBC.
US counterpart John Kerry urged Hong Kong to handle the protests – seen as a challenge to Beijing – with restraint.
In Hong Kong, students angry at China’s plan to vet candidates for 2017 polls have vowed to step up protests if Chief Executive CY Leung does not quit.
They say protesters will start occupying government buildings if Mr Leung does not resign by Thursday night.
Overnight, some 3,000 protesters massed outside Leung’s office in a stand-off with some 200 police, AFP news agency reports. There is a heavy police presence outside government offices, the South China Morning Post reports.
The protesters include students, supporters of pro-democracy group Occupy Central and others angered by the initial police response to rallies at the weekend, which included using tear gas.
Wang, the most senior Chinese official to speak openly on the matter, said: “Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. All countries should respect China’s sovereignty. For any country, for any society, no-one will allow those illegal acts that violate public order.”
But he said he believed Hong Kong authorities had “the capability to properly handle the current situation in accordance with the law”.
Kerry said the US supported universal suffrage in Hong Kong, adding he hoped local authorities would “exercise restraint and respect for the protesters’ right to express their views peacefully”.
In China, an editorial in People’s Daily warned of “unimaginable consequences” if the protests continued, while state TV said Hong Kong’s police should be supported in their attempts to “restore the social order as soon as possible”.
The nub of the argument is with Article 45 of the Basic Law – the agreement that underpinned Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule.
It says the “ultimate aim” should be to elect the chief executive by universal suffrage. To that end, the law stipulated that a “broadly representative” nominating committee should select candidates for election.
But in August, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber stamp parliament, ruled that candidates needed to get more than half the votes of that committee. Pro-democracy activists sensed a stitch-up: they believe the committee will be loaded with Beijing’s supporters and will ensure China controls nominations.
This is not a campaign to change China or overthrow the Communist Party, but a passionately local campaign for a big principle.
On Wednesday, Lester Shum, the vice-secretary of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said he hoped Leung would resign within a day.
“Otherwise, we will announce an escalation of our movement, including occupying or surrounding different government buildings.”
Chan Kin-man of Occupy Central urged the students to be peaceful, but also called on Mr Leung to quit, saying: “We can talk to anyone in the government except him… resign for the sake of Hong Kong.”
Thousands of demonstrators remain camped out at the main protest sites in the Central business district, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.
‘A WEEK OR A MONTH’
Several reports, citing unidentified Hong Kong sources, suggest the authorities plan to wait, hoping the protest campaign will lose momentum.
The Wall St Journal quoted a Hong Kong source as saying that Leung was planning to ride out the rallies and had been ordered by Beijing not to use violence.
A Hong Kong government source told Reuters: “It may take a week or a month, we don’t know. Unless there’s some chaotic situation, we won’t send in riot police… we hope this doesn’t happen.”
Speaking to the BBC, former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten accused China of breaching commitments it made to Hong Kong before taking over sovereignty from the UK in 1997.
But he said he did not believe China “would be so stupid as to do anything like sending in the army.”
Monday, January 21, 2019