China's President Xi Jinping. Photograph:( AFP )
Chinese President Xi Jinping asserted that Hong Kong's “true democracy” started after the city's handover to China from colonial Britain 25 years ago
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday said that Hong Kong can’t afford to be destabilised while defending the “one country, two systems” form of governance in a rare visit to the Chinese territory amid a deepening authoritarian crackdown by Beijing.
The Chinese leader asserted that Hong Kong's “true democracy” started after the city's handover to China from colonial Britain 25 years ago.
"After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong's people became the masters of their own city," Xi said. "Hong Kong's true democracy started from here."
Xi is in Hong Kong for the swearing-in ceremony of his handpicked leader John Lee— a former security chief who oversaw the police response to the anti-government demonstrations in 2019.
This is his first known trip outside the mainland in more than two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stressing that Hong Kong must be run by “patriots,” Xi said that it must also maintain its unique status and strengths, including as an international financial, shipping and aviation hub.
"After all the storms, everyone has painfully learned that Hong Kong can't fall into chaos and Hong Kong can't afford chaos," Xi said.
Watch | Hong Kong's 25th Handover Anniversary: Chinese President swears in HK's new leader John Lee
"It must get rid of all disturbances and focus on development."
Xi said that there was no reason to change the “one country, two systems” principle, which was gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy after the 1997 handover.
Friday marks the halfway point of the 50-year governance model agreed by Britain and China under which Hong Kong would keep autonomy and key freedoms.
Hong Kong has undergone seismic change since Xi’s last visit in 2017, when he warned against any challenge to Chinese sovereignty. Two years later, the city was convulsed by months of pro-democracy protests that sometimes turned violent, with some protesters calling for Hong Kong independence.
Beijing responded by imposing the national security law, saying it was necessary to restore order. Since then, almost 200 people have been arrested on charges of subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, including journalists and many of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy figures.
(With inputs from agencies)
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