MOSCOW, October 24 (RIA Novosti) - In his first public comments on the issue, Hong Kong's former chief executive has called on the pro-democracy activists to end their nearly month-long protests, saying the longer they continue the more serious the consequences will be, AFP reports.
“We need to end this occupation because not only... is it hurting livelihood of people but it's a gross violation of the law,” Tung Chee-hwa, who served as the first leader of China’s special administrative region from 1997 to 2005, told reporters. He was forced to resign after widespread protests sparked by a series of scandals.
“One month is a long time already and the consequences of prolonging this occupation [are] very, very serious,” he added.
In August, Beijing announced that those, who want to run for Hong Kong’s top job in election slated for 2017, will need approval of a 1,200-person strong nominating committee, loyal to Beijing. As a result, activists took to the streets saying they want real universal suffrage. Major protests, spearheaded by the Hong Kong Federation of Students and Occupy Central with Love and Peace, broke out in late September.
Tung Chee-hwa also defended Hong Kong’s current embattled chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, stressing “he is very calm and rational in dealing” with the current crisis. “What he is looking for is a peaceful ending to the occupation,” Tung Chee-hwa added. “During this time where there are many risks, I feel he has performed very well and has also gained the trust of the Chinese government,” the region’s former leader insisted.
On Tuesday, protesters and senior Hong Kong officials held televised talks. Although the meeting yielded no results, the authorities urged activists to continue the dialogue hinting, that the nominating committee could be made more representative. The protest leaders seemed uninterested in the offer, the Economist pointed out. However, they decided to hold a vote so that the protesters could choose what they want.
The poll whether to continue mass rallies or end the protests and accept the government’s offer to engage in dialogue is expected to be held Sunday evening, AFP reports. Tung Chee-hwa firmly supports the second option. “The best solution is to have the students and the government to continue to have dialogue, and not to have any pre-conditions, then the chance of success for the dialogue would be very big,” he stated, as quoted by AFP.
He also added that the activists have to understand they cannot “go against the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) and … the decision of the National People’s Congress.”
Hong Kong, which became part of China on July 1, 1997, is governed according to a “one country, two systems” principle. The 7-million region enjoys wide autonomy in all areas except foreign relations and defense.