China’s leader Xi Jinping has told Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam that the region must be ruled by “patriots” for the sake of its security and prosperity, according to state-run outlet Xinhua. His comments were made during Lam’s annual duty report on Wednesday, which took place via video conference due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To ensure the stability and sustainability of one country, two systems, we must always adhere to ‘patriots ruling Hong Kong.’ This is a fundamental principle that concerns national sovereignty, security… and the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” Xi was quoted as saying.

Xi Jinping Lam work duty report
Photo: CCTV Screenshot.

The leader added that rule by patriots was the only way of maintaining Beijing’s sovereignty over the region and safeguarding its constitutional order.

Xi commended Lam for her administration’s implementation of the national security law passed by Beijing last June, saying she “stood firm” and displayed her “love for the motherland,” according to Xinhua‘s report.

“The central government fully acknowledge you and the HKSAR in the performance of your duties.” He also expressed his condolences to officials who have been “unreasonably” targeted by US sanctions over the implementation of the law.

Lam thanked the central government for its support and vowed to work hard to overcome existing difficulties in the region, Xinhua reported.

Xi Jinping Lam work duty report
Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Photo: CCTV Screenshot.

The chief executive attended the meeting with Hong Kong’s China liaison office chief Luo Huining and the head of the chief executive’s office Eric Chan. Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office head Xia Baolong were also present.

Xi’s comments to Lam come amid growing pressure from Hong Kong authorities on government workers and public officers to swear allegiance to the government. Every civil servant has been required to take the oath while the government has announced plans to extend the requirement to district councillors and government contractors.

Commenting on Wednesday’s meeting, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to Beijing Tam Yiu-chung said the government may look to implement more measures according to Xi’s “rule by patriots” principle, according to RTHK.

‘End of rule of law’

Democrat and ex-lawmaker Fernando Cheung told HKFP on Thursday that Xi’s comments marked the end of the rule of law in Hong Kong: “But who is to make that judgement as to who is patriotic? Obviously, only the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] has that power. And the CCP’s red line can be shifted anytime according to its pleasure. Xi’s statement is an assertion that there’s no more rule of law in Hong Kong, only totalitarianism.”

Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung
Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Cheung also questioned how Lam herself could be considered patriotic: “Oddly, how could a person who has served the colonial government for decades, and with her whole family having pledged allegiance to the Queen, be considered patriotic?” he asked, in reference to Lam’s family members holding UK passports.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.