HONG KONG – Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs are working on an urgent strategy to solve the city’s political chaos and have ruled out the use of military force, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the discussions.
They will soon present top leaders in Beijing with both an immediate plan to handle the mass protests and a longer-term strategy that could result in China overhauling its management of the former British colony, the newspaper said, without elaborating on a date.
Beijing maintains that the crisis is best left for Hong Kong authorities to resolve and does not want to get directly involved, according to the report. Beijing has expressed public support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam throughout weeks of unrest and political gridlock, saying this week that it “firmly supports” her leadership.
On Thursday, China condemned a joint motion for a resolution in the European Parliament that called on EU member states and other nations to investigate export controls “to deny China, and in particular Hong Kong, access to technologies” that could be used to violate human rights.
“China strongly opposes this,” spokesman Lu Kang said. “China does value its relations with Europe, but maintaining a healthy relationship requires joint efforts.”
Lam on Monday vowed she will remain in office, after a Financial Times report said that she had offered to resign but that Beijing had insisted she stay and clean up “the mess she created.”
The Chinese officials also see Hong Kong’s police force as key to maintaining stability, the newspaper said. Officers’ tactics have come under fire after they used rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and pepper spray to disperse the protests. Demonstrators have demanded an independent investigation into what they deem a use of excessive force, and opposition lawmakers have called for the resignation of security chief John Lee.
Mainland officials want to avoid bloodshed and ensure the financial hub remains largely stable, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the situation. China’s approach will be to “lure the snake from its hole,” according to one adviser cited by the SCMP, taking a defensive position until the opposition reveals its strategy.
They are also considering whether the current environment makes it too risky for President Xi Jinping to visit another former European colony, Macau, later this year for celebrations of the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, the paper reported.
Crowds of Hong Kong protesters have turned out in unprecedented numbers every week since mid-June.
In recent gatherings, their anger has focused on China. More protests are being planned in neighborhoods across the city by demonstrators vowing to spread the word until Lam responds to their demands, including the official withdrawal of legislation that would allow extraditions to the mainland and first sparked the rallies.
On Wednesday, thousands of Hong Kong senior citizens, including a popular actress, marched in a show of support for youths at the forefront of the monthlong protests. The seniors also slammed the police for their handling of a protest Sunday in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. That protest was mostly peaceful but ended with violent scuffles in a shopping mall that left dozens injured, including a policeman who had a finger bitten off, and over 40 people detained.
There are indications that Xi and his top officials are preparing for their annual summer conclave in the seaside city of Beidaihe, which this year will bear even closer watching than usual as China faces growing risks at home and abroad, including Hong Kong’s unrest and an ongoing trade war with the United States.