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Beijing pulls key Apec meeting out of Hong Kong

Publication Date : 26-02-2014


In a move interpreted as expressing its unease over political developments in Hong Kong, Beijing has pulled a key Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting out of the city.

The Apec Finance Ministers' Meeting (FMM), scheduled to be held in Hong Kong from September 10 to 12, will be "postponed to a new date after late September".

"Accordingly, the location of the FMM will be changed to Beijing to facilitate logistics arrangements," the Hong Kong government said in a statement, noting that Beijing had written to it on Tuesday on the change.

The reason given by the government was that "due to the number of events and the broad range of themes and issues covered in the 2014 Apec process, some Apec meetings will have to be rescheduled to ensure that various Apec events would be well organised and coordinated".

China is this year's Apec host, with Beijing the venue for the Apec Leaders' Summit in November. Ministerial meetings were parcelled out to the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The FMM was meant to be Hong Kong's showcase moment, spotlighting its role as a financial hub.

In December, the legislature approved the spending of HK$63.45 million (US$8 million) on preparations such as providing meeting facilities and accommodation for the 21 delegations.

Apec tourism ministers will meet in Macau in August. There is no word on whether this has been changed - it remains the location on the Apec website.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said it "fully respects and understands" Beijing's decision. But observers said they believe Beijing was sending a signal.

The meeting would have been held two months after a planned civil disobedience campaign to occupy Central, Hong Kong's financial district. Its organisers have said the

sit-in will go ahead if electoral reform does not produce what they call "genuine democracy". The first phase of the process - public consultation - will end in May, and so far has been marked by contention.

Executive councillor Regina Ip, a former secretary for security, said she believes many factors were involved in Beijing's decision, including the issue of "protests and rallies".

"This is a loss for Hong Kong. It is a pity since we have been wanting to step up our international profile," she said.

But what is more disturbing, Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho told reporters, is the implication that the electoral reform process will not go in accordance to "the people's wishes".

"That is why Beijing is worried that the situation will not be stable, and thus, to avoid losing face in front of all the finance ministers, decided to shift the location," he said.

Political scientist Joseph Cheng said Beijing may simply want to show in a concrete way that it is in control of Hong Kong's destiny.


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