- Hong Kong has “strategic importance” for China
- Protests outside the venue
- Several reportedly arrested
A key Chinese official has pledged to listen to the concerns of people living in Hong Kong.
Zhang Dejiang is the highest-ranking leader to visit the former British colony since democracy protests broke out there in 2014.
Speaking at a business policy conference, Zhiang insisted Hong Kong has strategic importance for China.
“The Chinese central government attaches great importance to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, and its role in the national strategy,” he told the audience.
One belt, one road
Zhang is the first senior Chinese leader to visit Hong Kong for several years.
He spoke at a conference on Beijing’s plan for a new “Silk Road” – an economic belt stretching from Western China to Central Asia and Europe.
Democracy campaigners and pro-Beijing groups traded insults close to the conference centre where Zhang was speaking.
Several people were reportedly arrested.
- held up a banner calling for an end to dictatorial rule and to “stop interfering with Hong Kong affairs.”
- burned a portrait of Zhang Dejiang
- chanted “Zhang Dejiang, get the hell out of Hong Kong.”
There have also been calls for Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying to step down
- Held up a banner saying “Oppose splitting up Hong Kong
“We really want to have an opportunity to speak to Mr. Zhang directly because so far he is the highest official from the Chinese government to visit. We want to express our views and our concerns and our opinions towards our government and the interference of the Chinese government,” said Tanya Chan, Vice-Chair of the Civic Party.
What is the context?
Tensions are high in Hong Kong.
There are calls for greater autonomy or even independence from China.
Hong Kong’s own constitution or Basic Law guarantees universal suffrage.
However, in 2014, Zhiang angered pro-democracy campaigners by saying that the former colony’s next leader would be chosen from a Beijing-nominated shortlist.
This prompted protests which became known as the Umbrella Movement.
Doesn’t Hong Kong have a special legal status?
A range of civil liberties are guaranteed in Hong Kong under the deal that saw the UK return its former colony to Beijing in 1997.
However, campaigners allege there is too much interference.