There is no reason to change Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” formula of governance, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said yesterday on a rare visit to the territory after swearing in its new chief executive, John Lee (李家超).
Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997, with Beijing promising wide-ranging autonomy, unfettered individual rights and judicial independence at least until 2047.
China’s critics accuse authorities of trampling on those freedoms, unavailable on the authoritarian mainland, with Hong Kong’s National Security Law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after mass pro-democracy protests the year before.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said that China had failed to meet its handover commitments.
China and Hong Kong reject the accusations, saying the law “restored order from chaos.”
Xi yesterday said that the “one country, two systems” formula was successful under China’s “comprehensive jurisdiction.”
“For this kind of good system, there is no reason at all to change it. It must be maintained over the long term,” Xi said.
“After experiencing wind and rain, everyone can painfully feel 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,” he said.
At the swearing-in ceremonies, all officials, including Xi, wore masks and did not shake hands.
Former police officer Lee, sanctioned by Washington over his role in implementing the security legislation, takes charge as the territory is facing an exodus of people and talent amid some of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions in the world.
Authorities deployed a massive security force, blocking roads and the airspace around the picturesque Victoria Harbour, where the last colonial governor, Chris Patten, tearfully handed Hong Kong back to China at a rain-drenched ceremony in 1997.
Red lanterns, Chinese and Hong Kong flags, and posters declaring a “new era” of stability decorated districts across the territory.
Xi did not attend the traditional flag-raising ceremonies yesterday, with media reporting 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 he swore in outgoing chief executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) and stayed in the territory for the duration of his trip. His overnight whereabouts this time, and the reasons why he might have chosen Shenzhen, have not been officially confirmed.
“It is the end of an era, it is the end of ‘one country, two systems,’” exiled Hong Kong advocate Samuel Chu (朱牧民) said from Oslo, Norway. “This is a city that is no longer recognizable.”
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