BEIJING (REUTERS) - China's Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday (March 16) that he was confident the government and people of Hong Kong have the ability to deal with whatever issues they face, though avoided direct mention of the territory's recent political turmoil.
Beijing's refusal to grant the former British colony full democracy has embittered a younger generation of activists, culminating in massive protests in 2014, and political tensions and unrest remain, with Hong Kong rocked by a riot in February.
"We believe that the Hong Kong government has the ability and the Hong Kong people have the wisdom to properly handle the complex issues in Hong Kong," Mr Li said at a news conference at the end of the annual meeting of parliament.
Hong Kong is set to hold a full legislative council poll later in the year, pitting a pro-democracy camp that now enjoys a slender one-third veto bloc against pro-Beijing and pro-establishment parties.
A legislative council by-election in February saw strong voter support for an activist leader who placed third.
Hong Kong, which Britain returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives it a high degree of autonomy.
Mr Li said that policy had not changed and would not change.
Beijing has said it understands the frustrations of Hong Kong's youths amid the city's sluggish economy growth, where median income has barely risen in the past two decades and property prices have surged, and Mr Li said the central government would help support Hong Kong's economic growth.
"The development of Hong Kong is needed by Hong Kong itself and the country as a whole. Hong Kong's development ultimately comes down to the efforts of the people of Hong Kong," he added.
"The central government will give full support to any proposal from the special administration region's government that helps maintains Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability and contributes to the well-being of the people of Hong Kong."