China 'drafting urgent plan' to resolve Hong Kong crisis

HONG KONG • Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs are working on an urgent strategy to solve the city's political chaos and have ruled out the use of military force, a Hong Kong newspaper reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the discussions.

They will soon present top leaders in Beijing with both an immediate plan to handle the mass protests and a longer-term strategy that could result in China overhauling its management of the former British colony, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) said, without elaborating on a date.

Beijing maintains that the crisis is best left for the Hong Kong authorities to resolve and does not want to be directly involved, the report said. Beijing has expressed public support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam throughout weeks of unrest and political gridlock, saying this week that it "firmly supports" her leadership.

Yesterday, China condemned a joint motion for a resolution in the European Parliament that called on European Union states and other nations to investigate export controls "to deny China, and in particular Hong Kong, access to technologies" that could be used to violate human rights.

"China strongly opposes this," spokesman Lu Kang said. "China does value its relations with Europe, but maintaining a healthy relationship requires joint efforts."

Mrs Lam on Monday vowed that she would remain in office, after a Financial Times report said she had offered to resign but that Beijing insisted she stay and clean up "the mess she created".

The Chinese officials also see Hong Kong's police force as key to maintaining stability, SCMP said. Officers' tactics have come under fire after they used tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and pepper spray in dispersing the protesters.

Demonstrators have demanded an independent investigation into what they deem a use of excessive force, while opposition lawmakers have called for the resignation of security chief John Lee.

Mainland officials want to avoid bloodshed and ensure the financial hub remains largely stable, SCMP reported. China's approach will be to "lure the snake from its hole", according to one adviser cited by the newspaper, taking a defensive position until the opposition reveals its strategy.

The officials are also considering whether the current environment makes it too risky for President Xi Jinping to visit another former European colony, Macau, later this year for 20th anniversary celebrations of its return to Chinese rule, the paper reported.

 

Crowds of Hong Kong protesters have turned out in unprecedented numbers every week since mid-June. Recently, their anger has focused on China. More rallies are being planned by protesters vowing to stand firm until Mrs Lam responds to their demands, including the official withdrawal of a controversial Bill that would allow extraditions to the mainland and first sparked the unrest.

There are indications that Mr Xi and his top officials are preparing for their annual summer conclave in the seaside city of Beidaihe, which this year will bear even closer watching than usual as China faces growing risks at home and abroad, including Hong Kong's unrest and an ongoing trade war with the US.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2019, with the headline 'China 'drafting urgent plan' to resolve HK crisis'. Print Edition | Subscribe