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Carrie Lam met President Xi Jinping for the second time in two months.
China’s top leaders on Monday reassured Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor of their full support as they praised her courage and commitment in the face of Hong Kong's ongoing anti-government protests, but also reminded her that she had yet to accomplish her most pressing task – ending the violence that has gripped the city for more than six months.
Meeting Lam on the second occasion in two months, this time during her third duty visit to the capital, President Xi Jinping noted that Hong Kong’s situation this year was the most critical and complicated since it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
“Facing difficulties and pressure, Chief Executive Lam has stood firm on the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, governed in accordance with the law, and remained dedicated. You did plenty of work in difficult situations,” Xi said in his opening remarks to the city’s leader, adding that her government had “rolled out policy initiatives to support businesses, alleviate people’s woes, and seriously solve deep-rooted conflicts and problems in society”.
“The central government fully acknowledges your courage and commitment in these unusual times,” he told her.
Xi also expressed strong support for the city’s beleaguered police force to firmly enforce the law, and urged other sectors to do their part as well.
“I hope that different sectors in society can be united, work together to push forward Hong Kong’s development, and get it back on track,” he said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reiterated his support of the Chief Executive when he met Carrie Lam in Beijing.
Photo: Hong Kong Commercial Daily
Lam replied by thanking the president for his “care and guidance” over the past six months, as well as his “trust and support” in her handling of the worst crisis since the handover.
Earlier on Monday, Premier Li Keqiang complimented Lam for her efforts in dealing with the unrest which had dealt a “serious blow” to Hong Kong’s economy.
“You have been leading the government in doing the utmost to safeguard social stability, and rolled out a series of measures to help businesses and stabilise employment. It can be said that you rose to the challenges,” he told her.
“The central government fully acknowledges the efforts made by you and the city’s government.”
But the premier also reminded Lam that she still had her work cut out for her.
“Hong Kong has yet to come out from the difficulties. The city’s government must continue to make efforts in stopping violence and ending chaos in accordance with the law, and restore order,” Li said.
“It must also study with urgency the deep-rooted conflicts and problems in Hong Kong’s socio-economic development, and safeguard the city’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
The protests have rocked the city since the introduction of a now-withdrawn extradition bill in June.
Li also lamented the harm the protest movement had inflicted on society as a whole.
“Obvious recession has emerged in Hong Kong’s economy, and many sectors were dealt a serious blow. We can say that the city is facing unprecedented, serious and complicated situations,” he said.
Asked later in a media briefing if the two state leaders’ reminders about putting a stop to the chaos and violence reflected her lack of progress in that regard, Lam insisted they had endorsed her administration’s efforts to tackle the crisis.
“It’s difficult to compare each word the state leaders used in my duty visit. But I feel encouraged that the president understands the pressure I faced,” she replied when asked if she felt their support was diminishing.
As for Premier Li’s concerns about the impact of the protests, Lam admitted Hong Kong had faced a grim situation on the political, economic and social fronts over the past year.
The city recorded a significant economic downturn over the first six months, she said, but attributed it primarily to external factors, such as the ongoing US-China trade war.
“There will be a more significant downturn in the third quarter because of the internal social unrest,” Lam added.