Li Yuanchao slams Occupy Central as ‘illegal movement that impedes universal suffrage’
Vice-president tells news executives that central government is ‘ready to help’ handle protesters
Top Beijing officials yesterday slammed Occupy Central as an "illegal" movement that "damages the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong".
During a high-level meeting with media executives from the city, Vice-President Li Yuanchao , the deputy head of the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, and Wang Guangya , director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said Beijing strongly opposed the movement.
The comments came during a meeting between news executives and Beijing officials to mark the 60th anniversary of the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong.
"[Li] said Occupy Central was illegal. He also said it impeded universal suffrage," Lee Cho-jat, chairman of the Newspaper Society, told reporters following the meeting. "He also said it damaged the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong."
Occupy Central is a non-violent civil disobedience movement which plans to block streets in Central if the government does not come up with an acceptable plan for universal suffrage.
Delegate Ronald Chiu Ying-chun, of Cable TV, quoted Wang after the meeting as saying that Beijing "would offer help" if Hong Kong needed it in handling Occupy Central.
"He also said if Occupy Central really did take place, he was confident that the SAR government could handle it. But if the SAR government needed help or support from the central government, the central government would offer it."
The first five minutes of the meeting were open to the media.
"Your media companies have, I should say, contributed much in fostering a smooth handover of Hong Kong back to the mainland and protecting Hong Kong's prosperity and stability," said the vice-president.
He also urged the executives to see the "bigger picture" and lead society in reaping the benefits of China's development.
"I hope the media of Hong Kong could consider the collective benefits of the country and Hong Kong society and operate objectively, fairly, and impartially to lead society to grasp the new opportunities that have come with the country's reforms and developments," Li said.
The delegation was made up of representatives from the News Executives' Association, the Federation of Journalists and the Newspaper Society.
Sham Yee-lan, chairwoman of the Journalists Association, which was not invited, said media executives should have taken the chance to fight for better protection of journalists.
"We hope the news directors have reflected the difficulties faced by Hong Kong reporters working on the mainland, instead of just listening," Sham said. But she added: "We have to believe in the editorial independence of the delegates' media."