Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang has said that a small minority of people have been using the name of localism to separate the country, in his first response to Hong Kong’s independence movement during his visit to the city. However, he assured Hongkongers that the One Country, Two Systems principle would not be changed.
Speaking at a banquet on Wednesday held in his honour in Wan Chai, Zhang said localism was a common thought, as he loved his home town as well as the country.
“It should be respected that Hong Kong compatriots treasure their lifestyle and values – in fact, the substance of the One Country, Two Systems principle was to preserve Hong Kong’s original socioeconomic system and lifestyle,” he said.
“Now an extreme small minority have rejected the country, rejected the Central Government, and even put forward for Hong Kong independence – this is not an issue of localism, but an issue of using the name of localism to separate the country,” Zhang added. “Is that violating the original intention of One Country, Two Systems? Is this good or bad for Hong Kong? I believe Hong Kong people have their answers in mind.”
He said that the One Country, Two Systems principle – which guarantees the city’s autonomy – has been the national policy that would not be changed. The principle has strong popular support, is a common ground between the mainland and Hong Kong, and has worked well practically, he said.
“The principle has no precedence – the systems have to be improved, some deep level contradictions only show after some time,” he said.
He added that some problems in Hong Kong were exposed that had accumulated over the years. Some of the issues were new and it may take time to solve, but people should not doubt the city’s system, he said.
“This is not an uphill battle which we cannot overcome – we will have wisdom and the ability to solve the problems in implementing One Country, Two Systems,” he said.
He said he hoped the Hong Kong government and law enforcement agencies will do their duty to uphold the rule of law and that they will enforce the law with justice.
He added that all sectors of society should strongly condemn actions that challenged rule of law, adding that no one should be above the law and no one who breaks the law should escape legal punishment.