China leadership says it will ensure Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability

BEIJING: China will ensure Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and protect national security in the face of unrest there, the ruling Communist Party said on Thursday after a meeting of its senior leadership,

The former British colony, which reverted to Beijing’s rule in 1997, has been convulsed by often-violent protests over the past five months, prompting China’s central government to issue strict warnings that it will not allow the turmoil to continue.

What started as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill has grown into a pro-democracy movement against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city, which protesters say undermines a “one country, two systems” formula promised when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule, guaranteeing freedoms not found in mainland China.

It represents the biggest popular challenge to President Xi Jinping’s government since he took over the leadership in late 2012.

China denies meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.

Beijing says it is committed to defending Hong Kong’s system of autonomy and the Basic Law, or mini-constitution guides Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing.

In a statement issued after a four-day, closed-doors meeting of the party’s 370 or so top officials in Beijing, the party said that the “one country, two systems” must be “upheld and perfected”.

“We must strictly govern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macau Special Administrative Region in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and safeguard the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau,” it said.

Neighbouring Macau returned to China from Portuguese rule in 1999.

“Establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in special administrative regions,” the party added, without providing details.

Last month Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam invoked a colonial-era emergency powers to ban face masks, which have been widely used by the protesters to hide their identities.