Nod to start HK-Shanghai trading link comes after meeting between leaders in Beijing

HONG KONG (AFP) The go-ahead for the start of a landmark trading between between Hong Kong and Shanghai's stock exchanges came after Hong Kong's embattled chief executive Leung Chun-ying met with China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Sunday as the Chinese capital hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Leung said that he had asked Xi for the stock connect to be implemented "as soon as possible".

China's official news agency Xinhua said Xi had backed Hong Kong authorities' "efforts to safeguard the rule of law and maintain social order" in his meeting with Leung.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong since September in fury at Beijing's insistence that candidates running in the city's 2017 leadership election are screened by a loyalist committee, an arrangement critics have branded "fake democracy". The protesters have also called for Leung to step down.

Media reports last month also said that the Asia Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (ASIFMA), representing some of the world's biggest banks and asset managers, had written to Hong Kong regulators asking for a delay because of uncertainty over the scheme's rules.

China's premier Li Keqiang announced plans for the project in April and it had been expected to launch six months later.

Plans for a similar tie-up in 2007 sparked a surge in share prices in both bourses, but they were eventually scrapped as the global financial crisis unfolded.