Chinese President Xi Jinping strongly endorsed Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday, saying the former British colony had transformed “from chaos to order” since a controversial security law was imposed last year, the city’s media reported.
China has overseen a sweeping crackdown in Hong Kong after huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago, introducing a national security law that criminalised much dissent and introduced political rules that vet the loyalty of anyone standing for office.
The first public vote under this new order was held on Sunday for the city’s legislature, with a historic low turnout recorded.
Despite only 30 percent of the electorate casting ballots, Lam was backed by the central government on a three-day visit to Beijing this week.
Beijing “fully affirms” the Lam administration’s work, Xi told the territory’s chief executive in opening comments at a meeting shown by broadcaster RTHK and other Hong Kong TV channels.
The situation was “changing for the better”, Xi said, adding the weekend’s vote had been “held successfully” under Beijing’s changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system.
Praising the Hong Kong government for “resolutely implementing” the security law, Xi told Lam the Hong Kong government had taken “firm steps to push forward Hong Kong’s democratic development in accordance with the actual situation”, according to RTHK footage.
“The democratic right of our Hong Kong compatriots to be masters of their own home has been realised,” Xi said, also commending the Lam administration’s efforts to restore public order and economic growth in the financial hub.
Lam downplayed the low election enthusiasm, telling reporters at a Wednesday evening press conference in Beijing that “the Hong Kong government does not have a particular benchmark for voter turnout.”
“As there is no benchmark … there is no such thing as success or failure,” she said at the conference.
The elections were “in line with ‘patriots administering Hong Kong'” and “conducted in a way that is fair, transparent, clean, effective and humanistic”, Lam added.
She brushed off questions on whether she will run for another term, saying only that she would continue serving through June next year.
World powers including the European Union and the G7 group have condemned the legislature vote, saying the new rules had eroded democracy in Hong Kong, which was returned to the mainland from British rule in 1997.
© Agence France-Presse