Beijing issues strongly-worded warning it will not tolerate any actions that split the country

China has issued unusually tough warnings for Hong Kong, signalling a desire to bring the semi-autonomous city under tighter control, and perfect its governance of the territory, after five months of increasingly violent protests.

Chinas Communist party, in a statement issued after a meeting of key leaders, said national interest should take priority over the two systems policy that has allowed Hong Kong extensive autonomy since the handover from British colonial rule, and warned that it would not tolerate any actions that split the country.

It also called for Hong Kong to to perfect its legal system to safeguard national security, strengthen law enforcement power, and increase patriotic education of young people and civil servants, to boost support for China among two vital parts of the population.

The previous day, Chinas president, Xi Jinping, had expressed a high degree of trust in Hong Kongs unpopular leader, Carrie Lam, as the two met face to face in Shanghai.

That meeting and the Communist party communique suggest that Beijing is reinforcing its support for Lam despite speculation she might be replaced and will keep her in place to preside over attempts to regain control of the city and its streets.

In a clear reference to the five-months of unrest, the statement said officials must prevent foreign forces from interfering in Hong Kong or carrying out subversive activities, infiltration and sabotage.

Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said China was indicating that it would step up control over the city, and its leadership might try to push through a controversial anti-subversion law, shelved after a mass demonstration in 2003, to demonstrate its commitment to Beijings goals.

They are saying that Hong Kong should work harder to push through tough laws, Lam said. The current conflicts would not ease but sharpen.

Xis show of support for Lam followed speculation that Beijing was preparing to remove her as city authorities struggle to contain pro-democracy demonstrations that have rocked the financial hub.

Hong Kongs leader is chosen by a committee with a heavily pro-Beijing makeup, and even Lam has publicly admitted that she struggles to balance the needs of two masters the people of her city and the government in Beijing.

Their meeting in Shanghai on Monday followed another weekend of violence in Hong Kong that was marked by a knife attack and the vandalising of an office of Chinas official Xinhua news agency.

Xi said Lam has done a lot of hard work and strived to stabilise the situation in Hong Kong, according to a Xinhua report of their meeting.

Xi voiced the central governments high degree of trust in Lam and full acknowledgement of the work of her and her governance team, the state news agency said.

Ending violence and chaos and restoring order remain the most important task for Hong Kong at present, Xi said.

Xi also called for effective efforts to be made in improving peoples lives and having dialogue with all sectors of society.

Willy Lam said Beijing was showing support for the citys chief executive for the time being.

It doesnt mean that they like Carrie Lam, or it doesnt mean that they think highly of her performance, he said.

Its just that if they dont seem to be supporting her, then it will be impossible for her to carry out her duty in Hong Kong, Lam said, adding that Beijing wants Hong Kong to enact national security legislation that would give police more power to punish protesters.

But Carrie Lam could still be sacked within one year or during Beijings annual legislative session in March, the expert said.

Timeline

Hong Kong protests

A new Hong Kong extradition law is proposed, which would allow people to be transferred to mainland China for a variety of crimes. Residents fear it could lead to politically motivated extraditions into China’s much harsher judicial system.

Large public demonstrations start as thousands march in the streets to protest against the extradition bill.

Hong Kong lawmakers scuffle in parliament during a row over the law.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, introduces concessions to the extradition bill, including limiting the scope of extraditable offences, but critics say they are not enough.

The scale of protests continues to increase as more than half a million people take to the streets. Police use rubber bullets and teargas against the biggest protests Hong Kong has seen for decades.

Lam says the proposed extradition law has been postponed indefinitely.

The protests continue as demonstrators storm the Legislative Council, destroying pictures, daubing graffiti on the walls and flying the old flag of Hong Kong emblazoned with the British union flag. The protests coincide with the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the UK back to China.

Armed men in white T-shirts thought to be supporting the Chinese government attack passengers and passers-by in Yuen Long metro station, while nearby police take no action.

44 protesters are charged with rioting, which further antagonises the anti-extradition bill movement.

By now the protest movement has coalesced around five key demands: complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill, withdrawal of the use of the word “riot” in relation to the protests, unconditional release of arrested protesters and charges against them dropped, an independent inquiry into police behaviour and the implementation of genuine universal suffrage.

The mass protests enter their fifteenth week, with police resorting to teargas and water cannon against the demonstrators, and a wave of “doxxing” using digital techniques to unmask police and protesters as a new front in the battle.

Police shoot a protester with live ammunition for the first time, as demonstrations continue on the day marking the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China.

The first charges are brought against protesters for covering their faces, after authorities bring in new laws banning face masks in order to make it easier to identify or detain protesters.

Hong Kong officials spark outrage in the city as it revealed that nearly a third of protesters arrested since June have been children. Seven hundred and 50 out of the 2,379 people arrested were under 18, and 104 were under 16.

Lam is forced to deliver a key annual policy speech via video link after after being heckled in parliament, as the legislative council resumed sessions after it was suspended on 12 June. Later in the day one of the protest leaders, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by assailants wielding hammers and knives.

Chan Tong-kai, the murder suspect whose case prompted the original extradition bill is released from prison, saying that he is willing to surrender himself to Taiwan. The extradition bill is also formally withdrawn, a key demand of protesters.

On Tuesday the Hong Kong government said it deeply regretted the involvement of civil servants in protests that have plunged the Chinese-ruled city into its biggest crisis in decades as activists plan fresh demonstrations across the territory.

Chief secretary Matthew Cheungs comments came after a commentary by the ruling Communist partys Peoples Daily said Hong Kong civil servants who supported the anti-government demonstrations would perish with the rioters.

In August, thousands of civil servants defied a government warning to remain politically neutral and joined a rally, while Lam said in September she regretted the arrest of some civil servants during protests.

China has run the city under a special one country, two systems model, which allows Hong Kong liberties not seen on the mainland, since its handover from the British in 1997.

But public anger has been building for years over fears that Beijing has begun eroding those freedoms, especially since Xi came to power.

Protesters have issued a list of demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation into abuses by police.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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