Xi Jinping defends China’s firm control over Hong Kong: “Any interference must be eliminated” | International
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The course Hong Kong is now heading is the right one and there is absolutely no reason to change it, according to Chinese President Xi Jinping. His speech to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the return of the former British colony to Chinese sovereignty has made it clear that “patriots” attached to the central government will continue to be the only candidates for government or legislative posts. That security and stability will remain among the top priorities. And that Beijing will continue to closely control the management of its autonomous territory.
Xi was speaking from the Convention Center in central Hong Kong, at a ceremony that included the swearing-in of the new leader of the autonomous government, former policeman John Lee. It was the first time the president had left mainland China since the start of the pandemic two and a half years ago.
His speech sought to send a clear message: Beijing’s victory after the massive demonstrations that paralyzed Hong Kong in 2019 to demand respect for the enclave’s autonomy and protest against China. Those marches represented the greatest threat against Beijing on Chinese soil; A year later, the central government completely stifled the possibility of their recurrence, by imposing a National Security law on the autonomous territory that punishes behavior that it considers separatist, terrorist, subversive or collusion with foreign powers with up to life imprisonment. After the approval of that law, dozens of legislators and pro-democracy activists were detained; Opposition media outlets have been shut down and the once-so-frequent protest demonstrations have completely disappeared.
To this measure has been added an electoral reform that since last year only allows the presentation of electoral candidacies of “patriots” who have the approval of Beijing.
“After experiencing gales and storms, the whole world has been painfully aware that Hong Kong cannot be chaotic, and must not fall back into chaos…Hong Kong’s development cannot be delayed again, and any interference must be eliminated,” Xi declared. The Chinese president promised, at the same time, to support the role of the former colony as an international financial, commercial and maritime center.
The head of state, who traveled to Hong Kong accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, declared the success of the principle One Country, Two Systems. With precision: a success under the “complete jurisdiction” of China.
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This formula, named after the then leader Deng Xiaoping and enshrined in the Sino-British joint declaration for the return to Chinese sovereignty of the former British colony in 1997, was to guarantee “a high degree of autonomy” for the enclave. That degree of autonomy contained rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, which did not exist in the rest of China. But during Xi’s tenure, Beijing’s interpretation has evolved into a formula that allows for a more open economy than the rest of the country, while political and social freedoms remain in a drawer.
“There is absolutely no reason to change this kind of good system. We must maintain it in the future,” Xi said. The Chinese president also urged to develop the patriotic sentiment of young Hong Kongers, the main protagonists of the protests three years ago and who, according to polls, mostly refuse to identify themselves as Chinese. “If young people have a future, Hong Kong has a future,” stressed the head of state.
For his part, John Lee, the new leader of the autonomous government, elected in May by a committee of notable supporters of the Chinese regime and who replaces Carrie Lam, considered that his next five years in office will be a fundamental stage in achieving better governance and greater prosperity of the enclave. Hong Kong should strengthen its competitiveness as a financial, maritime and commercial center while ensuring stability and security, he insisted. “The rule of law is a pillar and a fundamental element of the success of this city,” he declared.
Xi’s two-day visit was surrounded by extreme security measures: The leader, who arrived by high-speed train, did not even sleep in the enclave. He spent the night in neighboring Shenzhen, in mainland China. And he left the former British colony as soon as the ceremony was over and after a brief visit to the Chinese army barracks in the city, on a day of increasingly gray clouds and under threat of the arrival of Typhoon Chaba in the following hours. . The ceremony itself took place amid strict compliance with anti-covid measures: wide safety spaces between guest seats, masks for everyone – including the head of state himself – and no handshake between Xi and John Lee afterward. that the latter was sworn in.
Since Monday, the area around the Convention Center was blocked by large plastic fences filled with water more than two meters high. The police presence on the streets had increased markedly. Those invited to the inauguration ceremony had to undergo PCR tests for coronavirus. At the police headquarters, a sign in English promised that “United, We Triumph”. In Chinese, it urged to “denounce the terrorists. You can be his next victim.”
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