Chinese Statesman Attends HK Economic Summit Amid Tight Security

Chinese Statesman Attends HK Economic Summit Amid Tight SecurityChinese Statesman Attends HK Economic Summit Amid Tight Security

Thousands of police were deployed across Hong Kong on Wednesday as a top-ranked Beijing official addressed an economic summit, with tensions high amid calls for greater autonomy in the Chinese-ruled city or even independence from the mainland.

Zhang Dejiang arrived on Tuesday for a rare visit in the former British colony and pledged to listen to residents’ concerns about the city’s relationship with China, an issue that has ignited fierce debate in the Asian financial center.

Plainclothes and uniformed police were on alert close to parts of the city that were crippled by pro-democracy protests in late 2014. Those protests presented Beijing with one of its greatest political challenges in decades, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday, protesters chanted for Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying to step down, while others held up a black banner calling for an end to dictatorial rule and to “stop interfering with Hong Kong affairs”.

Zhang is the first senior Chinese leader to visit Hong Kong in years. He spoke at a conference on Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, a plan for a new Silk Road and economic belt spreading from western China to Central Asia and Europe.

The official China Daily said in an editorial that Zhang’s visit comes at a “crucial” time to underscore China’s support and commitment to maintaining Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.