Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 1 News List

Anger as top Chinese official visits Hong Kong

AFP, HONG KONG

Demosisto Chairman Nathan Law, who advocates democratic self-determination and autonomy for Hong Kong, is subdued by police officers yesterday after trying to cross into a security area where Chinese Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang is residing during his stay in the territory.

Photo: EPA / Demosisto

One of China’s most powerful officials said he would listen to political demands from Hong Kongers in a conciliatory start to a visit yesterday that has stirred anger in a territory resentful of Beijing’s tightening grip.

The three-day trip by Chinese Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang (張德江) is the first by such a senior official in four years and comes as concerns grow in semi-autonomous Hong Kong that its long-cherished freedoms are under threat.

While Zhang is ostensibly visiting to speak at an economic conference today, the trip is widely seen as a bid to take the temperature in an increasingly divided territory with a fledgling independence movement.

It has infuriated opponents, critical of a massive security operation that includes barricading protesters into designated areas out of Zhang’s sight.

Police last night shoved back protesters gathered near the residence of the territory’s leader where Zhang was having dinner. Seven members of a pro-democracy political party were arrested earlier in the day after putting up protest banners, with three still detained, and a leading pro-democracy activist was also wrestled to the ground by police outside Zhang’s hotel.

Zhang arrived just before noon at Hong Kong airport where he was met by Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) and a brass band.

He is to meet with four veteran pro-democracy lawmakers this evening, a rare move observers say is designed to defuse frustrations over stalled political reform.

Layers of large, water-filled plastic barricades cordoned off roads in the area and paving stones have been glued down to prevent protesters using them as missiles.

Police are even patrolling Lion Rock — a hill on the other side of the harbor where pro-democracy protest banners have regularly been unfurled, but activists from the pro-democracy League of Social Democrats still managed to hang a banner calling for universal suffrage on a nearby hillside yesterday morning.

Another, demanding the “end of Communist Party dictatorship,” was hung on a highway from the airport into the city.

A small group of pro-democracy protesters, including student leader Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), chanted and held up signs calling for universal suffrage and self-determination near Zhang’s hotel as he arrived.

Demosisto Chairman Nathan Law (羅冠聰) tried to breach the barricade and was tackled to the ground by police officers.

In a message posted on Facebook, Law said the protest was to “deliver a message that we are willing to confront authorities as Hong Kongers have dignity.”

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