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HONG KONG has “risen from the ashes,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said today, as he marked 25 years since its handover to Beijing, ending more than a century of British colonial rule.
He reaffirmed China’s commitment to its “one country, two systems” governing principle, saying the autonomous region had a “bright future.”
It was his first trip outside the Chinese mainland since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, and he said its 1.4 billion population continued to support Hong Kong.
“For this kind of good system, there is no reason at all to change it,” he said. “It must be maintained over the long term."
“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.”
The Chinese leader swore in the city’s new leader John Lee as he inaugurated the sixth-term government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Mr Lee said that he would oversee “the development of Hong Kong into an international innovation and technological hub, leveraging and combining the respective strengths of Hong Kong and the mainland.”
A ceremony marked 25 years since Britain relinquished control of Hong Kong, which it had governed since 1841 during the first opium war.
Mr Xi said Hong Kong has thrived since it was handed back to China, saying that “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.”
But his comments have been criticised by a number of Western governments, including Britain and the United States.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that China was in violation of the independence of Hong Kong and 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,” he said on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hit out at China for what he said was an “erosion of democracy.”
“We stand in solidarity with people in Hong Kong and reinforce their calls for their promised freedoms to be reinstated,” he said.
Australia followed suit, saying it was “deeply concerned by the continuing erosion of Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and autonomy.”
China has repeatedly warned Washington that it should respect the country’s territorial integrity and stop interfering in its internal affairs.
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