China’s foremost leaders are not mincing words when it comes to what they expect of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and her government. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang had stern messages for her during her annual duty visit to Beijing, highlighting the need to investigate and address the social problems at the heart of almost seven months of civil unrest. Ending violence and chaos, as well as support for the police were a given; prosperity and stability are reliant on order being restored. The unambiguous directive is that on her return to the city today, work has to begin on formulating a more effective and lasting strategy. Tellingly, Xi repeated the comments he had made at the BRICS summit in Brazil last month. Then, he had spoken of the need for the Lam administration to effectively deal with the violence and quell unrest to restore stability. That is obviously still found wanting, and his mention of the importance of defending national security, the “one country, two systems” model of government, and development, while keeping foreign interference at bay, highlighted Beijing’s concerns. Li earlier in the day expressed similar sentiments, saying the city still faced considerable difficulties, with preventing job losses being particularly important. Chinese president praises Hong Kong leader’s ‘courage and commitment’ There was an acknowledgement that these are extraordinary times; Xi said the challenges and complexities were the worst Hong Kong had faced in the 22 years since its return to Chinese rule. But in a political system where showing unity is paramount, there was never any doubt of Beijing’s support for Lam and her government. The president praised the chief executive’s courage and commitment and gave his full backing, amplifying Li’s approval of relief measures rolled out to improve livelihoods and help businesses stay afloat. There was naturally also support for the police in enforcing the law and a call for Hong Kong’s people to remain united so that calm and order would return as soon as possible. Beijing would give the Lam administration the latitude to resolve the crisis on its own under the one country, two systems framework. But the chief executive’s failure to effectively respond to the unrest, mere dialogue being no solution, has deepened Hong Kong’s challenges. The economy has slipped into recession while numbers of visitors are sharply down, hurting the retail and tourism sectors and threatening jobs and livelihoods. Lam thanked Xi for putting faith and trust in her. But given the scale and nature of the crisis and the manner in which her administration has mishandled it, she cannot take such support on face value alone. She has been given notice by Xi and other leaders that she is on the right track, but needs to do much more.