APEC SUMMIT
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Leung Chun-ying

Xi Jinping sends anti-independence warning to Hong Kong

Chinese president tells Leung Chun-ying to maintain social and political stability but does not discuss his possible chief executive re-election bid

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 7:25am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 8:14am

President Xi Jinping has for the first time sent a “forceful” message to Hong Kong against independence advocacy, urging Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to ensure stability and safeguard national unity.

After their 45-minute meeting on the sidelines on the Apec summit in the Peruvian capital, Leung said on Monday that they did not discuss his possible re-election bid when Hong Kong chooses its leader next March.

Watch: Leung Chun-ying meets Xi Jinping in Peru

Instead, he said Xi was “very concerned” about Hong Kong, but also “very supportive of” the Leung administration’s handling of the row over two pro-independence lawmakers who were disqualified for insulting China while taking their oaths.

“[Xi] fully acknowledged my work and the [government’s] work ... including the recent handling of the Legco oath-taking [controversy],” Leung said.

“Very simply put – and very forcefully – the president said there is no room whatsoever for Hong Kong independence under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement.”

Beijing has been increasingly vocal and firm over the oath-taking row, with the country’s top legislature stepping in to interpret the city’s mini-constitution earlier this month to decide that inappropriate behaviour when lawmakers are sworn in should be punishable by disqualification. That was just before the city’s High Court ruled that newly elected localists Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching should lose their seats for invalidating their oaths by protesting against Chinese rule.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a leading Beijing adviser on Hong Kong affairs, said the central government wanted to avoid any room for speculation about its preference for the next chief executive at this critical timing.

“What is noteworthy is that unlike on similar occasions in the past, Xi didn’t give positive comments on Leung’s work before the cameras, and those remarks were only carried in the Xinhua report released subsequently,” Lau said.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that, while fully acknowledging the work of Leung and his government, the president told Leung to lead his team “to continue to implement policies in a comprehensive manner, to build broad social consensus, to focus on boosting economic development and improving the people’s well-being, to safeguard national unity, and to maintain social and political stability”.

Asked if he felt let down that Xi had no made comment on his possible aspirations for a second term as chief executive, Leung replied: “I had no plan to raise any of my personal matters with the president in this meeting today, nor did I expect him to say anything about me standing for re-election or not.”

During the photo opportunity at the start of their meeting in Lima at the hotel where he was staying, the president smiled as he briefly shook hands with Leung.

“It took 20 to 30 hours to fly here, right? It took a total of 27 hours,” Xi said, engaging in small talk with Leung in front of the cameras as the Hong Kong leader compared the difference in travelling time to Lima between Beijing and Hong Kong.

Also watched was the seating arrangement, after Leung’s duty visit to Beijing last year, when Xi sat at the far end of the table with the chief executive on the side to signal the president’s superior status as the head of state. This time the pair sat side by side.

Leung left Lima on Monday after a three-day stop to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.