June 2, 2023

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In Hong Kong, Xi says ‘one country, two systems’ is here to stay

In Hong Kong, Xi says 'one country, two systems' is here to stay
  • Xi said Hong Kong will maintain “one country, two systems”
  • Critics say Beijing has curtailed the city’s autonomy
  • new leader Jun Lee is sworn in; Replaces Carrie Lam

HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s President Xi Jinping, on a rare visit to the global financial center after the city’s new leader was sworn in, said there was no reason to change Hong Kong’s governing formula. John Lee, Friday.

Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, promising Beijing extensive autonomy, unrestricted individual rights, and judicial independence at least until 2047.

China’s critics accuse the authorities of trampling on those freedoms not available on the authoritarian mainland, with the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on the city in 2020 after mass pro-democracy protests the previous year.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Thursday that China had failed to meet its delivery obligations. Read more

China and Hong Kong rejected the accusations, saying the law had “restored order from chaos” for the city to thrive.

Xi said the “one country, two systems” formula has been successful under China’s “universal jurisdiction”.

“For this kind of good system, there is absolutely no reason to change it. It must be maintained in the long term,” Xi said.

“After being exposed to wind and rain, everyone can feel the pain that Hong Kong cannot be chaotic, and must not become chaotic again… Hong Kong’s development cannot be delayed again, and any interference must be eliminated.”

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Xi added that China will support Hong Kong’s role as an international financial and trade center.

At the swearing-in ceremony, all officials, including Xi, wore masks and did not shake hands.

Former police officer Lee, who was sanctioned by Washington for his role in implementing the security law, takes charge as the city faces a mass exodus of people and talent amid some of the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions. [nL4N2YE0D6]

Authorities deployed a massive security force, closing off roads and airspace around picturesque Victoria Harbour, as the last colonial ruler, Chris Patten, returned Hong Kong to China in a rain-soaked ceremony in 1997.

Red lanterns, Chinese and Hong Kong flags, and posters announcing a “new era” of stability decorated areas across the city.

Xi did not attend the traditional flag-raising ceremony on Friday, and media reported that he stayed overnight across the border in Shenzhen after arriving in Hong Kong on Thursday.

Xi’s visit to Hong Kong is his first since 2017, when outgoing leader Carrie Lam took an oath and stayed in the city for the duration of his trip. His whereabouts overnight this time, and his reasons for choosing Shenzhen, have not been officially confirmed.

Hong Kong recorded more than 2,000 coronavirus cases per day on Thursday, levels that would impose strict restrictions in any mainland city. Only China is among the major countries choosing to stamp out the outbreak as soon as it occurs at any cost.

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“Great renovation”

Some analysts see Xi’s visit as a round of victory after Beijing tightened its grip on Hong Kong. After arriving in the city on Thursday, Xi said the city had overcome its challenges and “rose from the ashes.” Read more

“What has happened over the past 25 years has proven that the future and destiny of Hong Kong should be in the hands of patriots who cry proudly for being Chinese,” the nationalist Global Times, published by the official Communist Party’s People’s Daily, wrote. In an editorial. “The great renewal of the Chinese nation is irreversible, Hong Kong villain will be even brighter.”

The anniversary of the handover has traditionally seen thousands march to voice their grievances about everything from sky-high real estate prices to Beijing’s control of the city, including during Xi’s recent trip to Hong Kong.

On 1 July 2019, during anti-government protests, demonstrators stormed and looted the city’s legislature.

No protests this time around, with the most outspoken opposition politicians and democracy activists either in prison or self-exile.

“It’s the end of an era. It’s the end of one country, two systems,” Hong Kong activist Samuel Chu told Reuters from Oslo, Norway. “This is a city that is no longer recognizable.”

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Additional reporting by Annemarie Rowntree, Hong Kong Office; Written by Marius Zacharia. Editing by Lincoln Fest and Jerry Doyle

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.