China's largely rubber-stamp parliament is set to meet on Sunday,
when it is expected to limit 2017 elections for Hong Kong's leader
to a handful of pro-Beijing candidates, a move likely to escalate
plans by pro-democracy activists to blockade the city's Central
business district on Sunday. [ID:nH9N0QV001]
According to state media, an unidentified spokesman from the Chinese
foreign ministry's Department of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Affairs
said China would promptly "make solemn representations" to any
"external force" that interfered in Hong Kong's internal affairs.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region (SAR) of China,
administered by what is known as the Basic Law.
In an interview with state news agency Xinhua on Friday, the
unidentified spokesman said "some people" ignored the long-term
interests of Hong Kong and the provisions of the Basic Law "to
collude with external forces in an attempt to interfere [with] the
SAR government administration".
This was done "not only to undermine the stability and development
of Hong Kong but also to attempt to use Hong Kong as a bridgehead to
subvert and infiltrate the mainland", the spokesman said.
"This will absolutely not be tolerated," he said.
The spokesman did not identify any outside countries. In 2013, U.S.
envoy to Hong Kong Clifford Hart said Washington would continue to
back "genuine universal suffrage" there.
Such a strongly worded statement from the ministry signals
increasing anxiety among Chinese leaders about the outcome of
Sunday's decision, which will be watched closely by diplomats and
international human rights groups.
The expected decision to limit the number of candidates for the 2017
elections could trigger a showdown with pro-democracy demonstrators
who are planning an "Occupy Central" campaign.
The Hong Kong government will deploy 5,000 police for the expected
protest on Sunday night, Hong Kong's official media RTHK said,
citing an unidentified source.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and there have been
fierce debates in the past year over how its next leader is chosen
in 2017 - by universal suffrage, as the democrats would like, or
from a list of pro-Beijing candidates.
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It returned under a principle of "one country, two systems" allowing
it broad autonomy and far more freedom of speech, assembly and
religion than exists on the mainland.
However, China has made it plain that Beijing's sovereignty cannot
be questioned. Beijing has ratcheted up its control despite promises
to grant the city a high degree of autonomy and eventual universal
suffrage, alarming many in Hong Kong and international observers.
"The (rights) that the special administration enjoys depends on how
much rights the central government grants," the spokesman said.
"Hong Kong has no 'residual powers'."
In a separate report, Xinhua said China would speed up efforts to
liberalize trade between the mainland and Hong Kong by the end of
2015 under the existing Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.
In neighboring Macau, another Chinese SAR, chief executive Fernando
Chui is widely expected to be "re-elected" on Sunday after his
pro-China government stifled an unofficial referendum on democracy
in the gambling hub.
(Additional reporting by Xiaoyi Shao in BEIJING and Yimou Lee in
HONG KONG; Editing by Paul Tait)
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