18 February 2019
Li Keqiang did not appear to be overly troubled by the disturbances in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8. Photo: Bloomberg
Li Keqiang did not appear to be overly troubled by the disturbances in Mong Kok on the night of Feb. 8. Photo: Bloomberg

Li Keqiang downplays Mong Kok clashes, says he’s confident in HK

Beijing believes the Hong Kong government has the ability and Hong Kong people have the wisdom to deal with all kinds of complicated problems and situations, Premier Li Keqiang said Wednesday.

Li was replying to a question about whether the Mong Kok clashes between protesters and police on the night of Feb. 8 highlighted the problems in Hong Kong society, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

He made his remarks at an international news conference after the closing session of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

They came after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on March 6 after a meeting with National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang that Zhang was “surprised” and “grieved” over the unrest.

Li did not give a direct answer when asked what has happened to Hong Kong, saying only that the city will maintain its long-term prosperity and stability and that he has confidence in the city’s future.

The premier said Hong Kong’s 2.4 percent growth rate last year was not bad for an advanced economy.

He said the city still has room to exploit its own advantages while grabbing the opportunities stemming from China’s development.

Li said Beijing will support all that is good for Hong Kong and the welfare of its people.

He also stressed that Beijing has been adhering and will continue to adhere to the principles of “one country, two systems”, ”Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong” as basic state policy.

Li ignored a question on whether he supported Leung in seeking re-election in 2017.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macau Studies, was quoted by Ming Pao Daily as saying that Li’s remarks showed that Beijing has set the tone for the governance of Hong Kong and that even incidents similar to the Mong Kok clashes will not change that.

The sociologist said he also expects Beijing to change its attitude to become more willing to interact with the pan-democratic camp, which he said should also seek room for dialogue instead of continuing to challenge the leadership of the Communist Party.

Political commentator Willy Lam Wo-lap told Apple Daily that Li’s remarks, which were milder than those of other senior officials, suggested that Beijing is trying not to aggravate young voters in Hong Kong before the Legislative Council elections in September.

However, Lam said, Beijing’s core strategy toward Hong Kong has never changed.

Meanwhile, Legco approved Wednesday a petition by 24 pan-democratic lawmakers to form a select committee to look into the Mong Kok clashes.

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