HONG KONG (AP) — A senior Chinese official in Hong Kong expressed confidence Wednesday in the ability of local authorities to restore calm to the protest-wracked city.
While not definitive, his comments reinforce thinking that the Chinese government is not preparing to intervene, even though the protests are expected to mar celebrations next week of 70 years of Communist Party rule in China.
“We believe the (Hong Kong) government has the capability to calm down the current situation,” said Song Ru’an, deputy commissioner of the foreign ministry office in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Months of protests with no end in sight prompted speculation earlier that China might send in troops to end the disturbances.
Protesters unfurled a huge banner reading “I wish glory to Hong Kong” inside a luxury shopping mall Wednesday. More protests are planned this weekend and on the Oct. 1 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Song said it was to be expected that the “one country, two systems” framework under which Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 would encounter difficulties because of its unprecedented nature.
“Indeed we have come across some problems in implementing ‘one country, two systems’ here in Hong Kong, and some problems are grave, which need serious consideration,” he said, answering questions through an interpreter at a briefing for foreign media.
Under “one country, two systems,” the former British colony became part of China but retained its own legal system and greater freedoms than in mainland China.
The protests were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Activists saw that as a threat to the legal rights that Hong Kong residents have under the framework.
The Hong Kong government has said it will withdraw the legislation, but the protesters’ demands have grown to include fully democratic elections, an amnesty for arrested protesters and an investigation into alleged police violence against demonstrators.
Song said the Chinese government is reflecting on both the successes and insufficiencies of “one country, two systems” to improve its implementation, but that its original mission and principles would remain unchanged.