Chinese President Xi Jinping has said the central government fully recognises Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s courage and responsibility during a time of crisis in the city.

Lam flew to Beijing for an annual duty visit last Saturday. Her trip came as unrest in Hong Kong spilt into its seventh month. The protests, originally over a now-withdrawn extradition agreement with China, have evolved into wider calls for an investigation into police handling of the crisis, amnesty for those arrested since June, retraction of the term “riot,” as well as the implementation of universal suffrage.

Carrie Lam and Xi Jinping. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Xi and Lam met at the Zhongnanhai, where Chinese leaders’ offices are located. Xi said that Hong Kong had experienced its most difficult and complicated historical period over the past year.

He said Lam had gone to great lengths to defend the fundamental principles of the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, and governed in accordance with the law. He said she managed to carry out her duties despite the difficulties and pressure she had faced.

He said Lam had led Hong Kong’s government to actively respond to social concerns, roll out a series of measures to help businesses and society, and seriously look into solving society’s deep-rooted problems.

“The central government fully recognises the courage and responsibility you have shown during a moment of crisis in Hong Kong,” he said.

Xi cited his speech in Brazil last month to reiterate Beijing’s stance on the political crisis in Hong Kong, saying that the government was determined to defend its sovereignty, development interests, the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, and to oppose all foreign interference into Hong Kong affairs.

Xi Jinping. Photo: i-Cable screenshot.

“The central government will continue to support [Lam] and the Hong Kong government in governing with the police, and to support the Hong Kong police in enforcing the law strictly. We also hope all sectors of Hong Kong society remain united in putting the city’s development back on track,” he told Lam.

Lam thanked Xi’s concerns and guidance. “[I thank] you for your trust and support in me and the Hong Kong government in handling such a large-scale crisis,” she said before security asked reporters to leave the room.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met Lam on Monday morning at the Great Hall of the People. Li said that incidents related to the extradition bill have damaged society in many ways.

Carrie Lam and Li Keqiang. Photo: GovHK.

Li said the central government will continue to uphold the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and support Lam and her administration in governing with accordance to the law. He added Beijing will defend Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.

“A clear fall has been shown in Hong Kong’s economy, and many sectors have been dealt a serious blow. We can say that [Hong Kong] is facing unprecedented, difficult and complicated circumstances,” he said.

“You have been leading Hong Kong’s government in doing your best to safeguard social stability, and have rolled out a series of measures to help businesses and stabilise employment. It can be said that you rose to the challenges even though it was not an easy task. The central government fully acknowledges the efforts you and the Hong Kong government have made,” he added.

Carrie Lam and Li Keqiang. Photo: GovHK.

Li said he hoped the Hong Kong government would work hard to bring order back to the city and analyse ways to alleviate Hong Kong’s deep-seated problems.

Lam thanked Li for his concerns and analysis. She said the economy had seen a downturn since the first half of the year, mainly because of external factors such as the ongoing US-China trade war.

“In the third quarter, because of the internal social unrest, there was a more significant downturn,” Lam said before security asked reporters to leave the room.

Vice-Premier Han Zheng, China Liaison Office in Hong Kong Director Wang Zhimin and State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Director Zhang Xiaoming were also present at both meetings.

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

Kris Cheng

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.