In a rare visit to Hong Kong on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping remarked that the financial hub’s “true democracy” began with its handover to the mainland from Britain in 1997.
Xi’s two-day visit to Hong Kong ended with a speech of over half an hour celebrating the “success” of Hong Kong after returning to Chinese control after 156 years of British rule.
“After reuniting with the motherland, Hong Kong’s people became masters of their own city, and realized the idea of Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy” Xi said in his keynote speech marking the 25th anniversary of the handover. “Hong Kong’s true democracy started from here.”
Xi noted that “the bond” that linked the two was “truly inseparable.”
The event also marked the inauguration of newly appointed Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who was the sole Beijing-approved candidate to run, all but guaranteeing his victory in May.
Hong Kong’s new leader Lee also gained notoriety for his role in the violent suppression of the financial hub’s pro-democracy protests in 2019. He remains unpopular with the U.S., who sanctioned him after the protests.
The autonomy of the region is also in question due to what appears to be China’s increasing control and influence over the city.
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang made a statement on Friday that freedom in Hong Kong had “vanished,” speaking on China’s original promise that life in Hong Kong would not change under Chinese rule for 50 years.
“It’s only been 25 years, and in the past the promise was 50 years of no change” accused Su. “We also know that we must hold fast to Taiwan’s sovereignty, freedom and democracy.”
“China’s so-called ‘one country, two systems’ has simply not stood up to the test.”