Chinese President Xi Jinping has cautioned against “impermissible” challenges to Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong as the city celebrates the 20th anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China.
Xi made the remark in a televised speech on Saturday after the inauguration ceremony of a new chief executive for Hong Kong, Carrie Lam.
The Chinese president said any threats to the authority of China’s Communist government would “cross the red line and are absolutely impermissible,” adding that Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty had “more extensive democratic rights and freedoms than at any other time in its history.”
Xi also expressed support for the “one country, two systems” policy, under which Britain returned the city to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997.
Lam’s swearing-in came amid large protests staged both by pro- and anti-Beijing groups in Hong Kong, with reports of minor scuffles between the two opposing sides despite the presence of hundreds of police forces deployed in the city.
Waving flags and carrying banners that read “Democracy, Self-determination,” anti-Beijing activists taunted the rival group, which was shouting “Long live China” in unison. A number of campaigners were reportedly taken away in police vans but were released shortly afterwards.
Under a deal signed in 1997, Hong Kong retains its broad autonomy, its freedoms, and the rule of law for 50 years. Anti-China activists and politicians claim, however, that Beijing’s alleged interference could erode those authorities and freedoms.
Hong Kong’s legislative, executive, and judiciary bodies are already separate from and independent of China, and Beijing only maintains authority in defense, foreign affairs, and constitutional disputes.