(Reuters) Just days before China was set to deliver its edict on electoral reform in Hong Kong, Beijing’s most senior official in the city held a rare meeting with several local lawmakers whose determined push for full democracy had incensed Beijing's Communist leaders.
The setting at the Aug. 19 meeting was calm: A room with plush cream carpets, Chinese ink brush landscape paintings and a vase of purple orchids. The political mood outside, however, was fraught. Democratic protesters were threatening to shut down the global financial hub with an "Occupy Central" sit-in if Beijing refused to allow the city to freely elect its next leader.
After the formal smiles and handshakes with Zhang Xiaoming, the head of China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, the mood soured. Pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung asked Zhang whether Beijing would allow any democrat to run for the city’s highest office.
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