Beijing's support for Hong Kong won't change despite vote outcome

China's premier told Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Wednesday that Beijing's goodwill toward the city has not wavered, a week after Hong Kong's legislature rejected a Beijing-backed proposal for political reforms. Tsang's trip to Beijing was his first duty visit with Chinese Communist leaders since he took office in July.

The meetings were closely watched for signs of Beijing's possible disappointment with Tsang over last week's bitter, embarrassing legislative defeat, in which lawmakers rejected Tsang's Beijing-backed proposal for gradual democratic reforms.

Tsang had proposed expanding Hong Kong's legislature and enlarging an 800-member, largely pro-Beijing committee, which picks the Chinese territory's leader. But pro-democracy lawmakers rejected the plan on Dec. 21 because it didn't include a timetable for when Hong Kong could choose its leader and all legislators by popular vote.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said developing Hong Kong's democracy has always been Beijing's stance, but stressed that the process must be gradual.

"This should be taken forward in a stable, healthy, and orderly manner. This would be advantageous to HK's public interest," Wen said on Hong Kong's Cable TV. His remarks echoed those of President Hu Jintao's on Tuesday. Neither of the leaders criticized Tsang's defeated reform proposals.

Wen did not mention a democracy timetable, but said Beijing would continue to support Hong Kong. "We will continue to do whatever is good for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and good for improving people's livelihoods," Wen said. "Our policy will not change,” reports the AP. I.L.

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