Hong Kong officials should challenge the chairman of China’s top legislative body to make concrete commitments to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy on human rights and democratic rule, Human Rights Watch said today. Zhang Dejiang, who chairs the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, will meet with Hong Kong Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and other senior officials during his visit to Hong Kong from May 17-19, 2016.
Zhang, the highest ranking central government official to visit Hong Kong since 2012, is participating in a forum on “One Belt One Road,” a Chinese government economic development initiative. While he will meet with pro-democracy legislators, there is little indication from the official schedule that he will publicly address concerns about political reform, the central government’s role in Hong Kong affairs, or meet with the media.“People in Hong Kong have urgent questions about mainland police operations in the territory, prospects for universal suffrage, and whether Beijing will allow the Hong Kong government to represent their interests,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s crucial that Hong Kong leaders disregard Beijing’s script and demand real answers from visiting mainland officials such as Zhang.”
Hong Kong authorities have sharply limited the opportunities for people to express criticism of Zhang’s visit, Human Rights Watch said. Protesters are limited to designated areas a considerable distance away from meeting locations. Police are also being deployed atop Lion Rock, a mountain where previously, a large banner proclaiming “I want Universal Suffrage” had been hung, presumably to prevent similar banners from being hoisted during Zhang’s visit. On May 17, seven members of the League of Social Democrats, a pro-democracy political party, were arrested for trying to hang on a bridge large banners emblazoned with slogans demanding universal suffrage.