Soon after Chinese President Xi Jinping swore in the new Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, he warned the protesters to not question Beijing’s sovereignty in the former British colony.
“Any attempt to endanger national sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administration Region) or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible,” Xi said at at a gathering that marked 20 years of Chinese rule in Hong Kong. At the same event pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carry Lam and her cabinet was sworn-in.
President Xi’s first visit to Hong Kong since he took power in 2013, came amid massive protests. Hundreds of pro-democracy groups are agitating about the increasing Chinese encroachment on the city’s autonomy, which has been guaranteed under the framework “one country, two systems”. Scores of protesters were arrested after they scuffled with pro-China organisations and the police.
President Xi arrived in Hong Kong on a three-day visit on June 29 amid unprecedented security to keep the protesters at bay.
Hong Kong has been simmering for the past few years with massive demonstrations, including prolonged “occupy protests” against China screening candidates to contest elections.
Sounding exasperated over the recurring protests, Xi said people in Hong Kong was freer than ever.
“The people of Hong Kong, now masters of their own house, run their local affairs within the purview of autonomy of the HKSAR,” he was quoted as saying by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
Xi stressed on the importance of having a correct understanding of the relationship between “one country” and “two systems”, saying that the system was advanced to realise and uphold national unity.
“In conducting day-to-day affairs, we must be guided by a strong sense of ‘one country,’ firmly observe the principle of ‘one country,’ and thus correctly handle the relationship between the HKSAR and the central government,” he said.
On the other hand, Xi said, the “two systems” should and have every reason to stay in harmony and reinforce each other on the basis of “one country”.
“We must both adhere to the ‘one country’ principle and respect the differences of the ‘two systems,'” he said.
The central government will unswervingly implement the policy of “one country, two systems” and make sure that it is fully applied in Hong Kong without being bent or distorted, he said.
Hong Kong cannot afford to be torn apart by reckless moves or internal rift amid the intense global competition, Xi cautioned.
“Making everything political or deliberately creating differences and provoking confrontation will not resolve the problems,” Xi said. “On the contrary, it can only severely hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development,” he warned.
“Hong Kong is an affluent society, but it also faces enormous challenges posed by profound changes in the global economic environment and the increasingly intense international competition,” he added.
The concept of “one country, two systems” gives expression to the vision of peace and harmony in the Chinese culture, and it embodies a very important tenet, namely, seeking broad common ground while setting aside major differences, Xi said.
“On the part of the central government, we are ready to talk to anyone who loves the country, loves Hong Kong and genuinely supports the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, no matter what political views or position he or she may hold.”
(With inputs from agencies)