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Hong Kong: Xi hails China’s rule at handover anniversary

China’s “one country two systems” model of ruling Hong Kong has worked in protecting the city and must continue long term, says Xi Jinping.

The Chinese leader mounted a stern defence of the political system in a speech in Hong Kong, following recent international criticism.

Hong Kong is marking 25 years since Britain returned the city to China.

It is under tight security as it hosts Mr Xi, who is on his first trip outside of the mainland in two years.

Under “one country two systems”, Hong Kong is supposed to be governed in a way that gives it a high degree of autonomy and protects freedom of speech and assembly, and other rights not found in mainland China.

But in recent years China has been criticised for increasing its control of Hong Kong and enacting laws and reforms that stifle free speech and dissent.

“‘One country two systems’ has been tested and proved time and again, and there is no reason to change such a good system,” he said, to applause from the audience comprising mostly of the city’s pro-Beijing elite.

He added the system had the “unanimous endorsement” of residents along with “widespread approval” by the international community, and that Hong Kong’s “true democracy began” when it returned to China.

But over the years Hong Kong has seen huge protests and many, including Western countries, have criticised Beijing’s growing interference in the city.

In 2020, China introduced a controversial national security law that has clamped down on free speech and dissent in Hong Kong. This prompted Britain to accuse China of violating the “one country two systems” principle and their agreement.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “We’re not giving up on Hong Kong,” 

“Twenty-five years ago 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 so that Hong Kong is once again run by the people of Hong Kong, for the people of Hong Kong.”

China’s recent electoral reforms designed to ensure only “patriots” can run for office in Hong Kong have also been heavily criticised.

But Mr Xi strongly defended this move on Friday, saying that it was “essential for safeguarding the long-term stability and security of Hong Kong” and that “at no time should this principle be allowed to be compromised”.

Editing by Omotola Oguneye