HONG KONG—Police imposed extensive security measures here on Tuesday for the first visit by a top Chinese
official since pro-democracy Occupy protests roiled this semiautonomous city in 2014.
Zhang Dejiang, the Communist Party’s third highest-ranking official, arrived here for a three-day visit at another
sensitive time. Some Hong Kong residents fear Beijing is undermining the territory’s autonomy. So-called localist
political groups clashed with police in February. Beijing, meanwhile, is irked by rising calls for political
independence in the Chinese territory.
Mr. Zhang is set to speak on Wednesday at a conference on China’s ” Belt and Road” initiative, a signature program of
President Xi Jinping’s to develop trade and infrastructure links between China, Asia and Europe. Mr. Zhang, who is also
the top official for Hong Kong and Macau affairs, also plans an “inspection tour” of Hong Kong, Chinese state media
reported. He also will meet with a group including four pro-democracy lawmakers on Wednesday.makeAd(‘4′,’300×250′,’mktsnews’,’article’,”,”);
Police presence was high around the convention center where Mr. Zhang was set to speak, with large water-filled
security barriers cordoning off zones and construction sites closed. About 6,000 police were deployed to provide
security, local media reported. The police declined to confirm that number.
Police also deployed forces near an iconic Hong Kong mountain peak dubbed Lion Rock. There, protesters during the 2014
Occupy movement unfurled a large yellow banner demanding open elections. On Tuesday, despite the police presence,
another such banner was again displayed on a nearby mountainside.
Officials said they also glued down sidewalk paving bricks in the area near Mr. Zhang’s visit. During the February
clashes protesters pried up such bricks and used them as projectiles. That scuffle began when members of a localist
party sought to prevent officials from shutting down unlicensed vendors at a Lunar New Year market.
The disappearance last year of five men affiliated with a Hong Kong bookstore and publisher of political gossip
inflamed concerns that Beijing is undermining the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement. The five men, one of whom
disappeared from the streets of Hong Kong, all reappeared in police custody this year on mainland China.
Hong Kong authorities strictly limited demonstrations on Tuesday. One group said it planned to demonstrate by the
residence of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, as he hosts Mr. Zhang for dinner Tuesday evening.
Protesters and some Hong Kong politicians hold Mr. Zhang responsible for instigating a period of political stagnation.
In 2014, the National People’s Congress—which Mr. Zhang chairs—put forward a controversial proposal for
elections for Hong Kong’s leader that sparked the Occupy movement. The overhaul would have opened the election of Hong
Kong’s leader to popular vote. But it left the selection of candidates up to a 1,200-member body which Beijing largely
In response, thousands of protesters gathered, occupying major city roads for nearly three months to demand free and
open elections, what they call universal suffrage. The protests fizzled out without major concessions from Hong Kong’s
government or from Beijing. The package was ultimately blocked by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, leaving the old
system for chief executive selection via a 1,200-member committee intact for the next elections in 2017.
Chinese officials have said that their Hong Kong policies, including the attempted rollout of the electoral overhaul
in 2014, meet the rules established by the territory’s constitution. Chinese officials didn’t comment on Tuesday.
The mountainside banner, meanwhile, was a message to Mr. Zhang, its author said.
“We want to let him know the mistake he made in 2014 should be corrected,” said legislator Leung Kwok-hung, who said
his party, the League of Social Democrats, placed the banner. “He is the one who should be responsible in the first
place. We want universal suffrage now.”
But Ms. Lau, the Democratic Party chairperson, said she viewed her planned meeting with Mr. Zhang as a potentially
conciliatory move by Beijing.
“For the Chinese government, this is totally unprecedented—meeting with the pro-democracy camp,” she said. ”
Maybe it shows they want to handle Hong Kong issues a bit differently.”
Chun Han Wong in Beijing contributed to this article.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
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