President Xi Jinping voiced confidence in Hong Kong's future on Monday, saying Beijing will firmly support the city to promote democracy in line with the law and uphold its prosperity and stability.
The central government's basic policies toward Hong Kong have not changed and will not change, Xi said, stressing Beijing's adherence to the "One Country, Two Systems" policy and the Basic Law.
Xi made the remarks in Beijing while receiving a delegation of nearly 70 tycoons and business leaders from Hong Kong.
It was the first time the president has met a Hong Kong delegation since the top legislature adopted a framework for the city's 2017 universal election of the chief executive, including details that Hong Kong voters would select a new chief executive from an approved list.
The meeting also coincided with a boycott of classes by thousands of Hong Kong college students to pressure Beijing on election reform, which has triggered a debate in Hong Kong.
Wang Zhenmin, dean of the School of Law at Tsinghua University, said Xi's remarks aim to reassure Hong Kong people about Beijing's policies, especially the businessmen and investors who have great influence on the city's prosperity and stability.
"The communication between Beijing and the Hong Kong business sector is now very necessary, though they used to speak little about politics," Wang said. "Hong Kong businessmen are eager to know more about the central government's policies as they have some concern about uncertainties over the election."
The delegation was led by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who is now a vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Some of Hong Kong's richest people, including Li Ka-shing and Cheng Kar-shun, were part of the delegation to Beijing.
Chan Wing-kee, managing director of Yangtzekiang Garment, said the delegation voiced its support of the central government's decision on Hong Kong's election and had a further discussion about political reform in Hong Kong.
Henry Tang Ying-yen, former chief secretary for administration of Hong Kong, hoped Hong Kong people would express their political thoughts legally, instead of through a mass sit-in.
Tang, a failed chief executive contender in 2012, said he would like to continue to serve Hong Kong people and hoped someone who "loves the country and loves Hong Kong" would take the office of chief executive.