During his visit to Hong Kong on Thursday to mark 25 years since its handover to Beijing, Chinese president Xi Jinping hailed the city for having “risen from the ashes” and staunchly backed its governing arrangement.
In Hong Kong, Xi swore in the new local leader John Lee, and reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to the “one country, two systems” governing principle for the semi-autonomous region's “bright future”.
Xi’s remarks came at the ceremony of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to its motherland and the inaugural ceremony of the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
On June 23, 1984, China's then-leader, Deng Xiaoping, had unveiled the concept of "one country, two systems" for Hong Kong. The vision was finally fulfilled in 1997, marking its 25th anniversary this week.
The Chinese leader termed the policy of “one country, two systems” as a very valuable initiative that has made China's territorial integrity, security and interests to be respected over the years and maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao.
"Everything the central government has done is for the benefit of our country, of Hong Kong and Macao, and of our fellow compatriots in Hong Kong and Macao," said Xi.
He noted that more than 1.4 billion people in the Chinese mainland support the policy of “one country, two systems”, and that the global community fully recognizes it.
"For this kind of good system, there is no reason at all to change it,” Xi said. "It must be maintained over the long term."
The Chinese president emphasized that every action Beijing has taken so far has been in line with the interests of the Hong Kong people and "for the good of Hong Kong".
"After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong's people became the masters of their own city," he said. "Hong Kong's true democracy started from here."
It marks Xi's first trip out of mainland China since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and his first to Hong Kong since massive protests overwhelmed the city in 2019.
“The facts have proved that one country, two systems has great vitality. It can guarantee long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong, and defend the well-being of Hong Kong people,” Xi added in his Thursday speech.
The speech drew sharp reactions from Western leaders, who said it was in violation of the independence of Hong Kong and the preservation of its territorial integrity.
"We made a promise to the territory and its people and we intend to keep it, doing all we can to hold China to its commitments," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his remarks, called it "erosion of autonomy".
"We stand in solidarity with people in Hong Kong and reinforce their calls for their promised freedoms to be reinstated,” he said.
Australia echoed Blinken’s remarks, saying it was "deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of Hong Kong's rights, freedoms and autonomy".
In recent years, especially since the presidency of Donald Trump, the US has followed a new policy called the "Indo-Pacific" to challenge the growing power of China with full ferocity.
Washington has tried to show off its power by interfering and selling weapons to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, drawing the wrath of Chinese officials.
China has repeatedly warned Washington that it should respect the country's territorial integrity and stop interfering in its internal affairs.