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China warning on HK protests

Hong Kong, July 15 (Reuters): Beijing’s top envoy in Hong Kong today warned against political activism in Hong Kong, where hundreds of thousands took to the streets this month in protest against government policies.

The city should concentrate on stability instead, said the official, Gao Siren, director of the liaison office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong is an economic city; it is not a political city,” he said. “If Hong Kong is over politicised, it will be bad for social stability. We sincerely hope that society can act with stability as the guiding principle.”

Earlier today, a prominent Hong Kong democracy advocate lashed out at a Chinese state-run newspaper that accused pro-democracy forces of manipulating recent mass protests for their own political ends.

Legislator and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan, a leading protest organiser in the territory, said the hundreds of thousands of people who took part in three demonstrations did so freely. “The paper seems to attribute everyone coming out to protest to incitement from the pro-democracy camp, but we think citizens have the independent ability to think for themselves,” Lee said.

An editorial in the English-language China Daily yesterday accused Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp of exploiting public outrage during the July 1 protest. The commentary was carried in the Hong Kong edition of the paper but not in copies sold in mainland China.

Half-a-million people marched on July 1 to protest against the Beijing-backed government’s insistence on enacting a controversial anti-subversion law.

Critics fear the law poses the greatest threat to basic rights and freedoms since Britain returned the territory to China in 1997.

The government postponed enacting the law, but public anger has since snowballed into calls for Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to quit and for universal suffrage. Two more rallies were held on July 9 and 13.

China's leaders have been careful to avoid publicly entering the fray for fear of being seen openly meddling in Hong Kong's affairs. But they were clearly alarmed by the mass demonstrations, in case they encourage similar venting of grievances on the mainland.

Democrats had used the protests as“a vehicle for subverting the political system in Hong Kong,” the China Daily said.

”Their main objective is to undermine the authority of the chief executive and the government he leads to overturn the executive-led system,” the newspaper added.“They hope to realise a legislative-led system so that they can take over power in Hong Kong.”

But Lee said it was widespread frustration with Tung's administration that had brought so many people on to the streets.

Hong Kong's popular Apple Daily newspaper also did not take kindly to the China Daily commentary.

”Any sort of claim that Hong Kong people had been misled or had been made use of by political organisations is to say that our citizens are stupid and lack independent thought and judgement. This is an insult,” the Apple Daily said in an editorial.

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