Beijing promises to help HK through crisis

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China promised Friday to help Hong Kong weather the global economic crisis by further opening mainland service industries to its companies and encouraging Chinese tourist travel to the territory.

Premier Wen Jiabao told visiting Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang that such steps are among 14 measures approved by Beijing "to support Hong Kong's financial stability and economic development," state television and the government's China News Service said.

Hong Kong has been battered by the slump in demand for Chinese exports, a large share of which pass through the former British colony. Hong Kong is a Chinese territory but has its own currency and trade policy.

Beijing wants to prevent an erosion of pro-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong that has risen with China's economic boom and last summer's Beijing Olympics. Pro-democracy protests and complaints about interference in local government have been constant since the territory came under the communist mainland's control in 1997.

Hong Kong's economy slipped into recession last quarter for the first since 2003, when severe acute respiratory syndrome devastated tourism. The government has cut its 2008 growth forecast from 4 to 5 percent to 3 to 3.5 percent.

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