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Beijing, H.K. hold landmark talks

AFP-JIJI

China’s top representative in Hong Kong held unprecedented talks with local legislators Tuesday, two weeks after tens of thousands of protesters denounced the slow pace of political reform in the city.

Zhang Xiaoming, head of the city’s mainland China liaison office, was invited to the lunch by a pro-Beijing lawmaker following the July 1 protest in a bid to improve dialogue between the two sides.

Several members of the feisty pro-democracy camp walked out after voicing their protests to Zhang at the meeting in the city’s Legislative Council — the first time a mainland official has attended a formal function at the assembly.

Beijing has promised to hold democratic elections for the city’s chief executive by 2017, but critics have cast doubt on the timetable and say the former British colony’s political future is in doubt. The pro-reform lobby fears that even if elections are held by 2017 as promised, Beijing will try to weaken the influence of the democrats, who have dominated previous elections in the city of 7 million.