Beijing supports Hong Kong government to end violence and chaos: Premier Li Keqiang

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the Chinese government unswervingly safeguards the “one country, two systems” policy and the idea that “Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people”. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday (Sept 6) the Chinese government unswervingly safeguards the "one country, two systems" policy and the idea that "Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people".

Beijing also supports the Hong Kong government "to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability", Mr Li said.

He made those comments at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in Beijing for a visit.

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters threatening to disrupt transport links to the airport as embattled leader Carrie Lam's withdrawal of a controversial extradition Bill failed to appease some activists.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the Hong Kong issue with Mr Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, saying a peaceful solution is needed.

"I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted," said Merkel.

"In the current situation violence must be prevented. Only dialogue helps. There are signs that Hong Kong's Chief Executive will invite such a dialogue. I hope that materialises and that demonstrators have the chance to participate within the frame of citizens' rights," she said during a visit to Beijing.

Protesters plan to block traffic to the city's international airport on Saturday (Sept 7), a week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, which saw some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago.

The Airport Authority, in an advertisement in the South China Morning Post newspaper on Friday, urged protesters "not to disrupt the journey of tens of thousands of travellers who use the airport every day".

In a pre-recorded televised address on Wednesday, Mrs Lam said the extradition Bill had been withdrawn, conceding to one of the protesters' five demands, although many said the move was too little, too late.

The extradition Bill, which would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party, triggered mass protests that have now evolved into a broader backlash against the Hong Kong government and its political masters in Beijing.

The massive and sometimes violent protests present Chinese President Xi Jinping with his greatest popular challenge since he came to power in 2012.

Many protesters remain angry over Mrs Lam's refusal to grant an independent inquiry into perceived police brutality against protesters - another one of the five demands.

Police have fired tear gas and bean bag rounds at protesters, who in turn have thrown petrol bombs and bricks at police in running battles across the Asian financial hub.

The protesters' three other demands are: retraction of the word "riot" to describe rallies, release of all demonstrators arrested, and the right for Hong Kong people to choose their own leaders.

Many Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is eroding the autonomy granted to the former British colony when it was handed back to China in 1997.

China denies the charge of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy and the possible use of force to quell the unrest. Hong Kong is facing its first recession in a decade.

Legislation addressing China's actions in Hong Kong will be among the top priorities pushed by United States Senate Democrats when Congress returns to work after a recess next week, their leader said on Thursday.

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