Jul 1, 2022 - World

China's Xi defends clampdown during visit to Hong Kong

Chinese President Xi Jinping during a swearing-in ceremony for Hong Kong's chief executive, John Lee, on Friday. Photo: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

China's President Xi Jinping said his government had acted "for the good of Hong Kong" and defended imposing a new "patriots only" elections system on the Asian financial hub during a visit to the city Friday.

Driving the news: Xi was in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the former British colony's return to China as a semi-autonomous region and to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the city's new Chinese government-vetted Chief Executive John Lee, who helped lead the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2019.

What he's saying: "It is a universal rule in the world that political power must be in the hands of patriots," Xi said in his speech in Hong Kong.

  • "No country or region in the world will allow unpatriotic or even traitorous or treasonous forces and figures to seize power," he added.
  • "'One country, two systems' has been tested and proved time and again, and there is no reason to change such a good system," Xi said as he railed against what he called foreign interference.
  • "Safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests" was a top priority, he said.

Worth noting: "After its return to the motherland, Hong Kong compatriots became masters of their own affairs, Hong Kong people administered Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, and that was the beginning of true democracy in Hong Kong," Xi said.

  • "After all the storms, everyone has painfully learned that Hong Kong can't fall into chaos and Hong Kong can't afford chaos. It must get rid of all disturbances and focus on development."

Reality check: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted in a statement that the July 1 handover anniversary "was envisioned as the halfway point of the promised autonomy under the 'One Country, Two Systems'" framework that was supposed to last until 2047.

  • "Yet it is now evident that Hong Kong and Beijing authorities no longer view democratic participation, fundamental freedoms, and an independent media as part of this vision," Blinken said.

The big picture: The national security law that Beijing first imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 has led to the arrest and imprisonment of dozens of pro-democracy activists and journalists and the closure of independent outlets, including imprisoned Chinese Communist Party critic Jimmy Lai's tabloid, Apple Daily.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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