A senior Chinese official is in Hong Kong to explain a controversial ruling about the territory's political future.

Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary of the Standing Committee for China's NPC, or National People's Congress, arrived in Hong Kong Wednesday to meet with local leaders.

One day earlier, the NPC asserted it must give its permission to Hong Kong before the territory may debate any democratic reforms. Many Hong Kong residents view the ruling as a serious blow to Hong Kong's autonomy.

Hong Kong's constitution, known as the Basic Law, allows for Hong Kong's entire legislature to be directly elected by popular vote in 2008. It allows for direct elections of Hong Kong's leader, the chief executive, by 2007.

Hong Kong's current chief executive, Tung Chee-Hwa, an appointee of Beijing, is defending the NPC ruling. "We are doing what we are doing - best for our country, as well as for Hong Kong," he said.

China says Hong Kong's transition to full democracy must be gradual, to ensure stability. Beijing was alarmed in July when a peaceful protest by half a million residents forced the local government to withdraw a controversial internal security law.