China reportedly blocked Hong Kong from axing the controversial extradition bill which triggered months of protests in the region as a tactic to end the tension.
Reuters, citing testimony from Chinese and Hong Kong government officials, reported that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told Beijing that giving into one of the protesters’ key demands would likely see the demonstrations shrink or even cease entirely.
The Chinese government rejected Lam’s proposal, and blocked her outright from giving in to any of the protesters demand, Reuters said, noting that the request was submitted at some point between June 16 and August 7.
The proposal was submitted to the central coordination group in the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, which then informed Chinese President Xi Jinping of its existence, Reuters said, citing evidence from a senior Chinese official.
In June, protester organisers released their four-point list of demands.
- Withdraw the bill entirely
- Retract police characterization of a June 12 protest as “riot.”
- Inquiry into police brutality at a June 12 protest.
- Release those arrested.
Reuters reported that protesters have since added a fifth demand: that Hong Kong holds full democratic elections in the future.
China “said no” to all of the demands, an unnamed source told Reuters, saying: “The situation is far more complicated than most people realise.”
An unnamed senior Hong Kong official told Reuters that Beijing considered the scrapping of the bill and launching an independent inquiry into the protests as the “most feasible politically.”
It ultimately did not decided to pursue that route, and opted for a more hardline approach. It is unclear why Beijing pulled back from its proposed softer approach.
Lam herself has consistently refused to compromise and, on Tuesday said it was protesters who must compromise.
“It is not a question of not responding; it is a question of not accepting those demands,” she said.
The bill was suspended “indefinitely” on June 15, but has not been fully abandoned. Protests have continued since the suspension, and have morphed into a multifaceted pro-democracy movement, now entering its 13th week.
In response, the Chinese government has labelled the protests “radical,” attempted to intimidate protesters by deploying the military in the border city of Shenzhen, and warned foreign powers not to intervene in domestic matters.
Zhang Xiaoming, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said at a meeting of Hong Kong and Chinese business leaders in Shenzhen on August 7 that if protests continued “the central government must intervene.”
On Thursday, numerous Chinese military vehicles entered Hong Kong on what state media outlet Xinhua claimed was a “routine rotation” of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Hong Kong Garrison.
People’s Daily, a Chinese government-controlled newspaper, said it was “normal routine annual rotation” in line with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, known as the Basic Law.