(From AFP)

Hong Kong protesters angry at a visit by a top Beijing official shouted pro-democracy slogans and demanded free elections Wednesday but were kept away from talks seen as an attempt to bridge a growing political divide.

Protesters march in the Wan Chai district of Hong Kong on May 18, calling for universal suffrage and an end to arrests of activists in China

The three-day trip by Zhang Dejiang, who chairs China’s communist-controlled legislature, is the first by such a senior official in four years and comes as concerns grow that freedoms are under threat in semi-autonomous Hong Kong as Beijing tightens its grip.

Although Zhang’s trip is ostensibly for an economic conference, it is widely being seen as a conciliatory mission and a chance to gauge whether Beijing should back the city’s unpopular leader Leung Chun-ying to stand for a second term.

It comes as frustration over lack of reform has sparked a fledgling independence movement, condemned by authorities in Hong Kong and China. Read More

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