High-profile ministerial meeting moved from Hong Kong to Beijing

HONG KONG Tue Feb 25, 2014 6:08am EST

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - A high-profile meeting of Asian-Pacific finance ministers has been moved out of Hong Kong on instructions from central Chinese authorities in Beijing, a measure that could prove embarrassing to the city's promotion of itself as a global hub.

The city government said on Tuesday that the 21-nation APEC Finance Ministers' Meeting (FMM), scheduled from September 10 to 12, would now be held at a later date in Beijing.

"The change is mainly because the meeting has been rescheduled," said Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung.

Other APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum) meetings this year, including the leaders' summit, are expected to take place in Beijing.

The FMM, while not as high profile as the summit, would have been one of the more important international forums to be hosted in Hong Kong in recent years.

Hong Kong promotes itself as "Asia's World City", enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedom and is proceeding with political reforms that could lead to an unprecedented direct election for its next leader in 2017.

But Beijing's Communist Party leaders have resisted public pressure for full democracy. And the former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997, could see a shutdown of its business and financial district over the summer by a planned "Occupy Central" movement pressing for the election to go ahead without any restrictions.

Late cancellations of such high-profile forums are rare given the extensive logistical preparations. The Hong Kong government said it "fully respects and understands" the decision to move the gathering.

Activists accuse Hong Kong's leader, Leung Chun-ying, of being loyal to the Communist leadership. Protests forced him to scrap plans to attend an APEC meeting in the Russian city of Vladivostok in 2012.

Hong Kong remains a full member of APEC in recognition of its economic independence, but its foreign policy remains in the hands of Beijing under the "one country, two systems" model that has guided its return to Chinese sovereignty.

(Reporting By Grace Li, James Pomfret and Greg Torode; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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