Visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping has praised the work of outgoing Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Xi met Leung at the Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel on Thursday.

He said that it was Leung’s “final stage as chief executive,” since his term will end on June 30: “Looking back at these past five years, it has not been easy for you… In implementing the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle and the Basic Law of Hong Kong, I see you have firm determination, [and] made a lot of effort.”

Leung Chun-ying meeting with Xi Jinping

Xi said Leung had to deal with problems accumulated in the past, and – at the same time – work on carving out space for development: “I can say the results were fruitful over these five years.”

“You made contributions to defending the safety of national sovereignty, the interests of [national] development, and firmly implementing the spirit of the Basic Law. So the central government has full trust in you, and fully affirms the work of the Hong Kong government and you over these five years.”

Leung has been taking a tough stance in criticising the Hong Kong independence movement.

xi jinping and hong kong officials
China’s President Xi Jinping (C) waits to meet with Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying at a hotel in Hong Kong on June 29, 2017. Photo: Dale de la Rey/Pool/AFP.

The incumbent leader was appointed as a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in March.

See also: Pro-independence party to go ahead with Handover eve vigil, calls police ban ‘unconstitutional’

Xi said he believed Leung could still use his professional skills to continue serving Hong Kong and the country.

Responding to Xi, Leung thanked him for his encouragement, and for visiting Hong Kong at an important moment “when Hong Kong people and the compatriots across the whole country wholeheartedly celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China.”

Following the meeting, Xi visited the West Kowloon Cultural District.

He attended the signing ceremony for an agreement to build the Hong Kong Palace Museum between Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung and the Director of the Beijing Palace Museum Shan Jixiang. It marks the formal commencement of the project.

Wang Guangya, the director of the Hong Kong And Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, incoming chief executive Carrie Lam, and Leung also attended the ceremony.

The project was led by Lam last year, the then-chief secretary. It sparked controversy as the deal did not go through any public consultation before it was announced. It is set to replace what would have been a performance venue.

Last week, the Independent Commission Against Corruptiondropped its investigation into Lam’s involvement in the museum deal.

west kowloon m+ skyline
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Security lockdown

Near the West Kowloon Cultural District, the bridge over the Western Harbour Crossing, and the bus stop of the Kowloon side exit of the tunnel, were included in a secure area. Pedestrians were not allowed to remain, other than entering or exiting buses.

The government has stepped up security measures across Hong Kong ahead of the official visit, citing terror threats. Giant barriers have appeared around Wan Chai, where Xi is staying and attending a number of official events. On Saturday, he will inaugurate Lam as the SAR’s new chief executive.

Editor’s note: Digital media outlets such as Hong Kong Free Press are barred from covering the Handover celebrations and inauguration of Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam.

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.