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China’s Xi Jinping hails Hong Kong’s ‘rebirth’ on 25th anniversary of Britain’s handover

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‘Shadow of itself’: ITV News Asia correspondent Debi Edward reports on 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China


The Chinese president hailed hong kong like rising from the ashes as he defended Chinese rule on the 25th anniversary of the handover of the former British colony.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the framework that promised Hong Kong its own laws and government for 50 years after the 1997 handover to Britain was still a good system that “must be maintained for a long time” as ‘he was hitting back at accusations from the US, UK and others that Beijing has undermined the freedoms and autonomy promised in Hong Kong.

Xi arrived in Hong Kong for the ceremonial celebration of the occasion, his first visit outside mainland China since the Covid-19 outbreak.

He was greeted at West Kowloon station by flag-waving supporters, but tighter security meant the traditional flag-raising ceremony and areas around its site were closed to the public.

Speaking at the ceremony, Xi said Hong Kong has overcome many challenges over the years and risen from the ashes with vigorous vitality.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech following a swearing-in ceremony to inaugurate Hong Kong’s new city government. Credit: PA

But his words come amid widespread criticism from the UK and other Western countries over human rights.

There has been a steady erosion of political and civil rights since Beijing imposed the National Security Act in June 2020 introduced following mass protests against legislation allowing extradition from Hong Kong to the mainland. The changes have all but eliminated dissenting voices in a place once known for its heated political debate and prompted many to leave.

But Xi praised the city for overcoming violent social unrest and warned there would be no tolerance for foreign interference or traitors meddling in Hong Kong affairs.

He said safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests were of the highest priority.

No one in any country or region of the world will allow foreign countries or even treacherous forces and personalities to take power, he said, adding that only by having patriots ruling Hong Kong will can ensure long-term stability.

After returning to the motherland, Hong Kong has overcome all kinds of challenges and made steady progress, Xi said. Whether it’s the international financial crisis, the coronavirus pandemic or violent social unrest, nothing has stopped Hong Kong’s progress.

Pro-China supporters rally, marking the 25th anniversary of the former British colony’s return to Chinese rule, in Hong Kong. Credit: PA

As long as we stick to the framework of one country, two systems, Hong Kong will definitely have a brighter future and make new and greater contributions to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people, he said.

He praised the General Manager of Territories Carrie Lam for ending what he described as the chaos that had gripped the city and for ensuring that only patriots would rule Hong Kong.

The foreign secretary said Britain would continue to support the rights of the people of Hong Kong.

In a statement on the anniversary of the handover, Liz Truss acknowledged that the past two years had seen a steady erosion of the rights and freedoms agreed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Ms Truss insisted that the UK’s historic commitment to the people of the territory lives on.

Lord Patten and Prince Charles wave goodbye to Hong Kong as they board the Royal Britannia on June 30, 1997. Credit: Pennsylvania

In a statement, Ms Truss said that under the legally binding Joint Declaration, signed in 1984, China had a duty to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms.

Authorities have stifled opposition, criminalized dissent and ousted anyone who can speak truth from power, she said.

The UK’s historic commitment to Hong Kong and its people continues. This is why we continue to challenge China for violating the legally binding commitments it signed under the Joint Declaration.

We have denounced their behavior on the world stage and joined our G7 partners in condemning the steady erosion of Hong Kong’s political and civil rights and autonomy.

Twenty-five years later, the UK continues to stand firm with Hong Kong. We work with our allies and partners as part of a global freedom network to hold China to its international obligations.


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