National / Politics

As Xi visit nears, Abe urges China to maintain free and open Hong Kong

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged China on Monday to maintain a free and open Hong Kong, as police continue their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous territory.

In a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Abe stressed the “importance of allowing Hong Kong to flourish under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

About 1,000 protesters had either been arrested or had surrendered to authorities last week after barricading themselves into buildings on the grounds of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Some lobbed gasoline bombs and bricks while police responded with tear gas and water cannons, in some of the most violent scenes seen in the territory since the protests began in June over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Pro-democracy parties won a landslide victory in district council elections held Sunday, showing public support for the movement remains strong despite the Beijing-backed government’s efforts to contain the protests.

Regarding the election results, Wang, who also holds the high-ranking position of state councillor, told reporters after meeting with Abe that “any attempts to undermine the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong will end in failure.”

Meanwhile, Abe and Wang agreed to work on preparations for Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Japan as a state guest next spring.

“We’d like to work together to make for a meaningful visit fitting of a new era in Japan-China relations,” the Japanese leader said.

Abe also raised the issue of China sending ships to waters near the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Beijing calls Diaoyu and claims as its own, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The prime minister also sought China’s lifting of a ban on food imports from Fukushima Prefecture and the surrounding area, put in place following the 2011 nuclear crisis, and the end of its detainment of Japanese nationals.

Wang, who attended a ministerial gathering of the Group of 20 major economies in Nagoya last week, was in Tokyo to co-chair the first high-level dialogue on bilateral human and cultural exchanges with his counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi.

“Mutual understanding between our peoples is an absolutely necessary foundation to long-term stability in Japan-China relations,” Motegi said at the outset of the dialogue.

“Our people have learned from each other, accepted each other, helped each other over more than 1,000 years. … The written characters we use, the rice we eat, the tea we drink are all symbols of our cultural exchanges,” Wang said.