HONG KONG –
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday defended his view of the “one country, two systems” framework against accusations by the US, UK and others that Beijing has undermined the freedoms and autonomy Hong Kong has promised for 50 years.
In a speech marking 25 years since the city became a semi-autonomous region of China after the handover from Britain in 1997, Xi said the “one country, two systems” framework – allowing Hong Kong to have its own laws and government has – had achieved “widely recognized success.”
“There’s no reason to change such a good system, and it should be maintained for a long time,” he said, in what appeared to be an attempt to reassure residents that Hong Kong could lose their relative freedoms even after 50 years. preserve.
But Xi also stressed that Beijing had “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, and that Hong Kong should respect Chinese leadership, even if Beijing allows regions like Hong Kong and Macau to maintain their capitalist system and some degree of autonomy.
He warned that there would be no tolerance for foreign interference or traitors meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs, and that “protecting national sovereignty, security and development interests” is the top priority.
“No one in any country or region of the world will allow foreign countries or even insidious forces and figures to seize power,” he said, adding that only by having patriots running Hong Kong, for long-term stability term can provide.
Xi last visited Hong Kong in 2017 for the July 1 celebrations, where he warned there would be no tolerance for activities perceived as a threat to China’s sovereignty and stability.
The months of pro-democracy protests in 2019 were seen as one such threat by the ruling Communist Party of China.
Since the protests, the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have drafted a national security law that has subsequently been used to arrest dozens of activists, media figures and supporters of democracy; introduced a more “patriotic” curriculum in schools; and revamped election laws to keep opposition politicians deemed not patriotic enough out of the city’s legislature. The changes have virtually eliminated dissenting voices in the city and prompted many to leave.
Xi’s two-day trip to Hong Kong is his first outside mainland China since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. Security in Hong Kong has been strengthened for his arrival, with designated security and no-fly zones. Thousands of guests were required to take daily coronavirus tests and check into quarantine hotels prior to participating in events with Xi on Thursday and Friday.
Xi also led the swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong’s new leader, John Lee, a former security official who oversaw the crackdown on dissent in the city since the pro-democracy protests of 2019. Lee promised the city’s mini-constitution. , the Basic Law, and remain faithful to Hong Kong. He also promised to be accountable to the central government in Beijing.
At a morning flag ceremony — attended by Lee, his predecessor Carrie Lam and other officials, but not Xi — police officers carrying the Chinese and Hong Kong flags marched to Golden Bauhinia Square for the Chinese “goose steps”-style ceremony, replacing of a British-style march. Guests stood at attention as the Chinese national anthem was played.