(Bloomberg) -- Premier Li Keqiang said the Chinese government supports Hong Kong’s leaders to bring violent protests to an end, its highest-level official to comment on the city’s political crisis.
Li, the No. 2 official in China’s ruling Communist Party, made the comments during a news conference Friday with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. For her part, Merkel urged China to protect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents and find a peaceful solution to the unrest.
“People should believe that Chinese people have the ability and wisdom to manage its own affairs,” the Chinese premier said, adding that Beijing supported the government to end the violence to “safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
Li is the highest-level Chinese official to weigh in on the unrest since more than million people took to the streets on June 9 to protest now-withdrawn legislation that would’ve allowed extraditions to the mainland. The peaceful march was the first in a series of demonstrations, which have since escalated in violence and intensity.
Merkel said she supported Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s efforts to start a dialogue with the public. She called Lam’s decision Wednesday to withdraw the extradition bill an important signal.
“I indicated that these rights and freedoms must of course be guaranteed,” Merkel said. “In the current situation, everything must be applied that ensures violence is avoided – and the solution can only happen peacefully, with dialogue.”
Merkel is seeking to walk a fine line on Hong Kong during her two-day visit to China. While her administration urged Beijing to engage in dialogue and respect the rule of law, Merkel has declined an invitation to meet with protesters, her spokesman said on Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Germany granted refugee status to two activists who faced sentences as long as 10 years on rioting charges related to a violent clash between police and anti-China radicals in 2016.
--With assistance from Stephen Tan.
To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Dandan Li in Beijing at email@example.com;Patrick Donahue in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at email@example.com, Karen Leigh
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.