July 1 march

Beijing unmoved by massive rally turnout, say advisers

As fallout from protest spreads, advisers warn of social and financial crisis if conflict over the city's pro-democracy movement escalates

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 July, 2014, 3:26am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Beijing is unlikely to make concessions on political reform despite demands by hundreds of thousands of people who joined the July 1 pro-democracy march, according to state media and advisers to the central government.

Financial authorities also called on the city to guard against economic instability in the face of possible disruption by the Occupy Central movement, with one adviser warning of "bloody conflicts" if confrontation between Beijing and Hongkongers worsened.

"It is difficult for the central government to change its stance simply because of the massive turnout," Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said. "I'm worried the escalating confrontation between Beijing and Hongkongers could result in bloody conflicts."

The Civil Human Rights Front, organiser of the annual march, put the turnout on Tuesday at 510,000, while police said 92,000 started the march in Victoria Park.

Watch: Hong Kong's July 1 democracy protests see massive turnout

Despite the turnout, a Global Times editorial said Beijing would not make concessions. "Some Hongkongers see 'democracy' as their only advantage over the mainland, now that the city is losing its economic edge," the newspaper, known for its hardline stance, said. "Joining protests makes some people feel proud and superior to their mainland counterparts."

Peking University law professor Wang Lei said the Hong Kong government should take the protest seriously.

But whether it would give the pro-democracy camp more bargaining power was hard to say.

"Since the final plan of how to achieve universal suffrage hasn't been released yet, such populist protests will not help us solve problems in society," he said.

The People's Daily said putting patriots in charge of the city was in line with "the principles of heaven and earth". It said late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping defined patriots as those "who loyally support China's exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and those who do not impair [its] prosperity and stability".

The Hong Kong government plans to release its proposal for the 2017 chief executive election later this year.

In Beijing, Vice-Minister of Finance Wang Baoan said Occupy Central - which threatens to block traffic in the financial hub if the government fails to come up with a satisfactory proposal for 2017 - would damage economic development and social stability.

"Hong Kong is an important offshore renminbi centre, but the development of the business relies on the stability of its financial environment," he said.

The People's Bank of China said Hong Kong was the largest offshore renminbi market and should value this status.

"The [renminbi] business is a good piece of pie. If you don't want to eat, this is your choice," said Guo Jiangwei, of the bank's monetary policy department.

The US State Department also weighed in, saying: "The legitimacy of this person [elected in the 2017 chief executive poll] will be enhanced if universal suffrage is fulfiled and if the election provides a genuine choice of candidates that are representative of the voters' will."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei responded yesterday by saying the central government "resolutely opposes any form of interference by any foreign country, and hopes the relevant country stops gossiping about Hong Kong's internal affairs".

Additional reporting by Li Jing