Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng has said the central government fully acknowledges and supports the work of the Hong Kong government and police force.

Han, who oversees Hong Kong affairs, was meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on Wednesday. It came after Lam’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai ahead of the China International Import Expo earlier this week.

Carrie Lam Han Zheng
Carrie Lam and Han Zheng. Photo: GovHK.

“We hope you will remember President Xi’s requests and lead Hong Kong’s governing team to start again and march forward again,” Han said.

He said the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong over the past five months has severely damaged the city’s social order, trampled on its rule of law, and challenged the bottom line of “One Country, Two Systems,” resulting in the worst crisis since the 1997 Handover.

“This kind of extremely violent destructive activity would not be tolerated or accepted in any country or society in the world nowadays,” he said. “The violent destructive activities and radical separatist behaviours have gone far beyond the bottom lines of law and morals, destroying ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

The 22-week-long unrest was triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill which would have enabled fugitive transfers to mainland China. Mass demonstrations have since evolved into calls for democratic reform and accountability over the police handling of the crisis, among other demands.

October 20 mask ban china extradition protest
Photo: Studio Incendo.

Han said Lam is leading the Hong Kong government in undertaking the large and difficult task of handling the protests. He added that Beijing has expressed a high degree of trust in the embattled leader.

“[The central government] fully acknowledges the work done by [Lam] and the SAR government, and the dedicated performance of the Hong Kong police force,” he said.

“Stopping the violence and restoring order is still the most important task for Hong Kong society. It is also the responsibility of Hong Kong’s executive, legislative and judicial branches because I believe stopping violence and restoring order is the biggest consensus among Hongkongers,” he added.

Lam in response said the support from Xi and Han gave her administration more determination to restore order in Hong Kong.

She said more than 3,000 people have been arrested, of whom more than one third were students: “I am very saddened by it,” she said.

Separation of powers

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan, also a convener of the pro-democracy camp, said she was concerned about Han’s remarks regarding the responsibility of executive, legislative and judicial branches.

“Hong Kong implements separation of powers and it is a very important core value in the city. We have the rule of law and not the rule of man, and we have an independent judiciary. The legislature is not part of the administration and we do not need to help the government in doing anything. Instead, we should monitor the government,” she said.

Tanya Chan
Tanya Chan. File Photo:

She said Hong Kong’s judges would only rule on cases on the basis of fact and legal principles.

“They should not [make judgments] on the basis of orders from the central government,” she said. “If the central government still respects ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong,’ a ‘high degree of autonomy,’ and ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ I hope he will be more careful when making speeches in the future.”

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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.