Hong Kong Protests: Premier Li Stresses Social Stability


China's Premier Li Keqiang says he is sure social stability can be maintained in Hong Kong, as pro-democracy protests in the region entered a third week.

Mr Li made his comments during his trip to Germany, where he and Chancellor Angela Merkel signed trade agreements.

Thousands of protesters, demanding fully democratic elections, have paralysed parts of Hong Kong.

China has agreed to direct elections in 2017, but wants control over which candidates can stand.

The pro-democracy protests, which had tens of thousands of participants at their peak, had decreased in size over the past week, as the government and student leaders agreed to hold talks.

However, the government called off the talks on Thursday, saying the students' refusal to end their protest had made "constructive dialogue" impossible.

Leaders of the student movement also called on supporters to return to the streets, saying they would escalate their campaign if the government did not agree to meet them.

Speaking in a joint press conference with Mrs Merkel on Friday, Mr Li did not mention the protests directly.

However, he said: "Maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong is not only in China's interests but is mostly in the interests of the people of Hong Kong."

"I am sure the people of Hong Kong and the government of Hong Kong have the competency to ensure the wealth and stability of society... [while] protecting residents from injury and property damage."

He said there would be "no change" to the "high degree of autonomy" currently enjoyed by Hong Kong, adding that "Hong Kong's affairs belong to the internal affairs of China".

Mrs Merkel said: "The demonstrations have gone peacefully, and I hope it can remain that way."

Mrs Merkel added that she hoped that "in a free exchange of opinions, solutions are found that satisfy the population in Hong Kong"