China to 'perfect' choosing Hong Kong leader as Guy Fawkes protesters
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[November 05, 2019]
By Sarah Wu and John Geddie
HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese Communist
Party said it would "perfect" the system for choosing the leader of Hong
Kong after months of street protests demanding democracy for the former
British colony and denouncing what critics see as Chinese meddling.
The party said in a statement it would support its "special
administrative region" of Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997,
and not tolerate any "separatist behavior" either there or in
neighboring Macau, an ex-Portuguese colony that was handed back to
Chinese rule two years later.
Some protesters in Hong Kong have called for independence in sometimes
violent unrest, a red line for Beijing. China denies meddling.
As the party statement was released by Xinhua news agency, Hong Kong
leader Carrie Lam said she had held a short meeting with Chinese
President Xi Jinping in Shanghai.
"He expressed care and concern about Hong Kong, especially given the
social disturbances that we have seen in the last five months and he
expressed support for the various action taken by Hong Kong Special
Administrative Region government," she told reporters.
Referring to the foundation of the 1997 deal under which Hong Kong
reverted to Chinese rule, Lam said: "...In strict accordance with the
principle of 'one country, two systems' (we will continue) upholding the
rule of law and trying to put an end to the violence."
The "one country, two systems" formula guarantees Hong Kong's freedoms,
including an independent judicial system, for 50 years.
Lam denied widely reported rumors that her government was considering an
amnesty for protesters charged with offences, one of the demands of the
protesters. "In simple terms, it will not happen," she said.
BONFIRE NIGHT PROTESTS
After gatecrashing fancy-dress Halloween festivities on Oct. 31, a few
hundred Hong Kong protesters marked Guy Fawkes Day on Tuesday in the
Tsim Sha Tsui tourist district of Kowloon by wearing the white, smiling
Guy Fawkes masks made popular by anti-establishment hackers, the film "V
for Vendetta" and protesters globally.
Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, is celebrated with fireworks
and bonfires every Nov. 5 in Britain, when effigies of "guys" are burnt,
marking the night in 1605 when Fawkes was arrested for a "gunpowder
plot" to blow up parliament.
“We are here to tell the government that we are not afraid of them and
that they should be afraid of us," masked protester Pete, 27, said in
front of the huge, harborfront neon Christmas decorations.
Lam banned face masks last month, invoking colonial-era emergency powers
for the first time in more than 50 years, but protesters have largely
ignored the ruling.
China's Communist Party, in a lengthy statement about decisions reached
at a key leadership meeting known as a plenum last week, said it would
improve the national security system in Hong Kong, as well as in Macau,
though it gave no details.
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Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference
ahead of a Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce dinner in Shanghai, China
November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/Pool
The party decided to "establish a robust legal system and
enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security in the special
administrative regions and support them to strengthen law
The party will "perfect" the appointment and dismissal mechanisms
for the leaders and senior officials of the two territories, it
added, reiterating comments from a Chinese parliament official last
week. Again, no details were given.
It will also perfect the system under which the party has full
jurisdictional power over Hong Kong, in accordance with the
constitution, Xinhua said.
In a nod to some of the economic causes of the unrest, the party
said it would support Hong Kong's economic development with a focus
on resolving "deep-rooted" problems that affect social stability.
There will also be a focus on improving the "patriotic spirit" of
young people and civil servants, the party said.
The demonstrations in Hong Kong began over a since-scrapped
extradition bill and escalated in mid-June against perceived Chinese
interference. Protesters have kept up their calls for universal
suffrage and an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality,
among other demands.
The protests, which pose the gravest challenge to Xi since he came
to power in 2012, have received broad support.
The number of people who take part in the mostly weekend rallies has
dwindled from the millions who participated in June, but violence
and vandalism have escalated. Authorities have refused permits for
many recent protests, making them illegal from the outset and
activists liable to be arrested.
There have been many injuries in the protests, but no deaths. A
22-year-old student at a Hong Kong university who fell during
protests at the weekend was in critical condition on Tuesday,
hospital authorities said.
A man stabbed at least two people on Sunday and bit off part of a
politician's ear before being beaten by protesters. A 48-year-old
suspect has been charged with wounding.
Lam expressed her sympathies for the wounded, singling out the
(Reporting by Twinnie Siu, Donny Kwok, Farah Master, Sharon Lam,
Sarah Wu, Kate Lamb and John Geddie in Hong Kong and Ben Blanchard
in Beijing; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie; Editing
by Mark Heinrich)
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