China Will Not Budge on Democracy in Hong Kong, Says Leader

Despite protests and unrest, China will not allow for a more autonomous democracy in Hong Kong, according to former leader Tung Chee-hwa.

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A protester confronts police officers at Hong Kong's Mongkok district, October 4, 2014.Credit: Reuters

REUTERS - Hong Kong's first leader after its return to Chinese rule says Communist Party leaders in Beijing will not give in to students' demands for democracy, a newspaper said on Sunday, an apparent response to their suggestion he could act as intermediary.

A leader of Hong Kong's protests, which have blocked city streets for weeks, on Thursday called for a respected go-between, such as former leader Tung Chee-hwa, to help arrange a trip to Beijing.

"Mr. Tung points out the central government understands the different views in Hong Kong," his spokesman told the South China Morning Post. "The decision of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on August 31 will not change."

China has ruled the former British colony since 1997 through a "one country, two systems" formula which allows wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland and specifies universal suffrage as an eventual goal.

But the NPC said in August it would screen candidates who want to run for the city's election for a chief executive in 2017, which democracy activists said rendered the notion of universal suffrage meaningless.

The protesters, led by a restive generation of students, are frustrated with the city government's inability to negotiate and are hoping to send a delegation to Beijing.

Tung is the vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. The CPPCC is a high-profile but largely ceremonial advisory body to the NPC, China's parliament.

Tung, a Shanghai-born former shipping tycoon, was hand-picked by Beijing to rule Hong Kong following the handover, ending more than 150 years of British rule.

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