La Gaceta De Mexico - Xi hails 'new atmosphere' in Hong Kong, welcomes next leader

Xi hails 'new atmosphere' in Hong Kong, welcomes next leader
Xi hails 'new atmosphere' in Hong Kong, welcomes next leader / Photo: © AFP/File

Xi hails 'new atmosphere' in Hong Kong, welcomes next leader

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Hong Kong's next leader in Beijing, telling John Lee he has the full trust of the central government, state media said Monday.

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Lee travelled to Beijing on Saturday to receive the central government's blessing as he prepares to take office in a month.

The 64-year-old former security chief, who oversaw the crackdown on Hong Kong's democracy movement, was chosen as the next chief executive by a small committee of Beijing loyalists in early May.

"I believe that the administration of the new government will definitely bring forth a new atmosphere, and compose a new chapter in Hong Kong's development," Xi said, according to official news agency Xinhua.

Lee will assume office on July 1, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer from British to Chinese rule and the halfway point of the "One Country, Two Systems" political model.

According to Xinhua, Xi said Lee has the "courage to take responsibility" and "had made contributions to safeguarding national security and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability".

"The central government fully affirms and fully trusts you," Xi added.

Lee was the sole candidate in the race to succeed outgoing leader Carrie Lam at a time when Hong Kong is being remoulded in China's authoritarian image.

According to a statement from the Hong Kong government, Lee said in the meeting that he was "deeply honoured by the appointment and fully aware of the great responsibility upon me".

He promised to "unite all sectors" and bring the government and people together to "strive for the well-being of Hong Kong and its people".

"Together, we will build Hong Kong into a city with long-term prosperity and a caring and inclusive society," he added.

Beijing imposed a national security law that has clamped down on dissent after widespread and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests rocked the city in 2019.

The elevation of Lee, who is under US sanctions, places a security official in Hong Kong's top job for the first time after a tumultuous few years for a city battered by the unrest and economically debilitating pandemic controls.

Earlier this month countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States joined the European Union in voicing alarm over the selection process of the new leader, which they called a "continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms".

But Beijing hailed the process as "a real demonstration of democratic spirit" and said it was the culmination of a strategy to ensure only "patriots" run Hong Kong.