Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms ‘fully protected’ since handover, top Chinese diplomat says

State Councillor Yang Jiechi says central government will stay firm on ‘one country, two systems’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 2:57pm

A top Chinese diplomat said that the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong had been “fully protected” and that democracy had “steadily progressed” since the handover 20 years ago.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi said the central government would stand firm on its “one country, two systems” principle in ruling Hong Kong.

The diplomat was speaking at the opening ceremony of a high-profile exhibition on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover at the National Museum of China in the heart of Beijing. China’s No 3 leader Zhang Dejiang was also present but did not give a speech.

Yang’s remarks come just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong this week, during which he will attend ceremonies marking the anniversary of the city’s return to China from British sovereignty.

“Over the past 20 years, Hong Kong residents’ fundamental rights and freedoms have been fully protected,” said Yang, also deputy chairman of the Communist Party’s working group on Hong Kong affairs.

“The development of democratic politics has steadily progressed,” he added. “’One country, two systems’ has achieved widespread acclaim in the international community.”

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Yang said the central government would support the Hong Kong government in “governing according to laws” and improve cooperation between the mainland and the city.

Outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying and his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who will be sworn in on July 1, stood alongside the state leaders, who also included Vice-President Li Yuanchao and United Front chief Sun Chunlan.

In his speech, Leung said “one country, two systems” had proven to be the best system for Hong Kong.

Stuart Lau is reporting from Beijing