March 15, 2016 / 4:32 AM / in 2 years

Beijing expects young pro-democracy 'radicals' to become Hong Kong lawmaker: SCMP

Pro-democracy protesters carrying yellow umbrellas, symbol of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, gather outside government headquarters in Hong Kong, China September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Beijing accepts that several young pro-democracy “radicals” will be elected to Hong Kong’s law making Legislative Council in September, a Hong Kong newspaper cited a top Chinese official as saying, as tensions in the city over independence remain high.

Beijing refusal grant the former British colony full democracy has embittered a younger generation of activists, which culminated in massive protests in 2014.

And political tensions remain, with a riot in the tough, working-class neighborhood of Mong Kok in February and strong voter support for an activist leader who placed third in a legislative council by-election in February.

“It will be normal that several radical young people will be returned as lawmakers (in September),” Feng Wei, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, told South China Morning Post in an interview.

“Politics is the process of putting theories into practice. Young people participating in politics, including radicals, will gradually mature,” Feng said in the interview, which was seen to be the first interview given to Hong Kong media by a top Beijing official handling Hong Kong’s affairs since the early 1990s.

Hong Kong is set to hold a full legislative council poll later in the year, pitting a pro-democracy camp that now enjoys a slender one-third veto bloc against pro-Beijing and pro-establishment parties.

Feng said the central government was “very concerned” about the rise of radicalism and was analyzing the reasons behind the ­phenomenon. He said the tendency of resorting to violence was notable in the Mong Kok riot.

“Perhaps in a certain period in future, this is a phenomenon which will merit increasingly more of our attention, though this is something we do not want to see,” Feng added.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that gives it a high degree of autonomy.

Feng said supporters of separatism and independence are a minority who do not represent the mainstream Hong Kong population, and he understands the frustrations of youths amid the city’s sluggish economy growth. The median income has barely risen in the past two decades, while property prices had surged.

But Feng said Beijing could also improve communications and understanding of Hong Kong people, and needed to learn to express its thoughts in a language Hong Kong people could comprehend and accept.

Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by xxx

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