Beijing sees `no big deal' in Mong Kok strife

Top News | Kenneth Lau 7 Mar 2016

National People's Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang said rising social conflicts in the SAR are "no big deal" and that Hongkongers have the intelligence to solve the problems on their own.

"Lots of countries are facing the same problems such as unemployment, slow economic development and youths failing to buy houses," Zhang was quoted as saying by Maria Tam Wai-chu, leader of Hong Kong's delegation to the National People's Congress.

"These problems are yet to be solved but Hong Kong people have the ability to solve them. As in the course of history and examples in other countries, the problems Hong Kong faces are 'no big deal."'

Zhang met with the 36-member Hong Kong delegation inside the Hong Kong Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, during which the Mong Kok clashes on the first day of the Lunar New Year - which Zhang called "street violence" - were among the topics discussed.

In the 30-minute meeting, Zhang told the delegates both historical and current reasons caused slowdown of economic growth and radicalization in society.

Hong Kong is facing an increasing trend of social conflicts as some traditional industries of the city are going downhill.

Zhang said the Mong Kok incident should be assessed in a more comprehensive way.

"He [Zhang] said Hong Kong people have high intelligence quotient - that is 130 or above - and certainly understand the city's advantage," Tam said.

Zhang, the central government official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, also refrained from condemning the "riot" in the meeting.

Instead he said the "street violence" was a common happening worldwide as upset teenagers go against the government amid a downward economic situation, according to National People's Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai.

He said the SAR should focus its efforts on economic development and maintaining the rule of law, which is the root of Hong Kong's strength instead of making matters political.

"Do not politicize everything. From a more macro view, you can see these clashes are everywhere, and we should solve it by ourselves. 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' means we need to fix it by our ways," Fan said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who met with Zhang yesterday afternoon, said the NPC chief felt shocked and heartbroken over the Mong Kok violence and anti-social "incident."

"He was surprised that Hong Kong as a society of the rule of law and as a civilized city that such a violent and anti- society incident can happen. Secondly, he felt heartbroken over the rioters' behavior as the city's image was damaged," Leung said.

Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming were also at the meeting.

City University political analyst James Sung Lap-kung believes Zhang's "no big deal" remarks targets three groups - the "external force," localism camp and members of the public.

"The central government wants to show that they do not fear the Western force as well as the localism camp. They also want to tell the public that the government is capable of governing Hong Kong," Sung said.

Instead of using the term "riot," which was used by Leung after the large clashes, Sung said the central government tried to comfort the youths especially after the localism camp recntly gained 66,000 votes in the Legco New Territories East by-election.

Sung believed this may affect the pro- establishment camp's momentum in the Legco election on September.

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