Wen Jiabao 'misses his compatriots' in Hong Kong
Premier Wen Jiabao, who will step down from his post in March, offered an affectionate farewell to Hongkongers, saying he "misses his compatriots in the city very much".
Known as the amicable face of Chinese politics, Wen has seen a decade of drastic political development in Hong Kong since taking the helm as premier in 2003. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who made his first duty visit to Beijing this week, was the third chief executive to report to Wen.
During the meeting, Wen was keen to highlight his bond with Hongkongers. "I am truly grateful to Hong Kong people for their help and support to the central government over the past decade," he said. "I miss my compatriots in Hong Kong very much and I firmly believe the city has a bright future."
Wen was the first national leader to visit Hong Kong after the severe acute respiratory syndrome broke out in the city in early 2003. The disease took the lives of 299 people in the city.
During his whirlwind tour of Hong Kong in June 2003, he visited the Amoy Gardens in Kowloon Bay, the worst-hit residential estate during the outbreak in which the residents in an entire block were quarantined. Wen was photographed holding a three-month-old baby boy in his arms and listened to a piano performance by a six-year-old girl. The pair lost their mother to Sars.
He was warmly welcomed in the city at the time - his only visit - but Hongkongers vented their anger with the Tung Chee-hwa administration on the day he left, when 500,000 people took to the streets for the July 1 rally.
Wen had expressed his wish at the National People's Congress this year to visit Hong Kong again "to see residents of Amoy Gardens and interact with students of the University of Hong Kong".