HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s top official in Hong Kong has warned democracy campaigners in the former British colony against pushing for independence and confronting Beijing, the official news agency, Xinhua, reported.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong shut down major business districts for 2-1/2 months last year, demanding open nominations in the next election of the city’s chief executive in 2017.
Beijing has said it will allow a vote, but only between pre-screened candidates.
In his most extensive comments since police cleared pro-democracy protesters from the city’s highways in mid-December, Zhang Xiaoming made clear that Beijing is moving toward tighter control of the global financial hub.
“We could not allow any attempt to reject the central authority’s jurisdiction over Hong Kong under the pretext of a high degree of autonomy, to advocate ‘Hong Kong independence’, or even to overtly confront with the central government through illegal ways,” Zhang said on Wednesday at a reception attended by top officials.
There is no mainstream independence movement in Hong Kong, although some activists want a continued campaign of civil disobedience this year to force Beijing to accept fully democratic elections.
Banners seeking to humiliate Hong Kong and Chinese leaders festooned streets and government buildings during last year’s protests.
Democratic lawmaker Emily Lau said Zhang’s comments were “improper and inappropriate” for a mainland official and blurred the boundaries between Hong Kong and China’s governance systems.