LIMA, Peru — Hong Kong’s leader says Chinese President Xi Jinping has affirmed his handling of a political dispute in the Chinese-ruled territory in which two independent legislators were barred from taking their seats.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Xi had “fully affirmed our work” in a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima, Peru.
Leung said Xi referred to the decision to refuse to seat two elected members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council for using anti-China insults and foul language while taking their oaths. Xi has not publicly commented on the controversy.
Beijing handed down its own interpretation of the semi-autonomous region’s mini-constitution to disqualify the two, circumventing Hong Kong’s courts and raising fears over the city’s wide autonomy and independent judiciary.
Xi Jinping gives nod to work of Hong Kong government and urges CY to be ‘resolute’ in safeguarding national unity
Chinese president meets city’s top official on sidelines of Apec forum in Peru
President Xi Jinping “fully acknowledged” the Hong Kong government’s handling of the oath-taking saga, signalling “forcefully” that there was no room for the city’s independence from China under ‘one country, two systems’, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Sunday in Lima.
Xi also asked Leung to unite society and safeguard national unity, among a number of expectations he had of the city’s top official, according to state media Xinhua.
Watch: Leung Chun-ying meets Xi Jinping in Peru
Recalling a 45-minute meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the Apec forum in Peru, Leung thanked the president for his recognition but maintained there was no mention of his own re-election plan.
“[Xi] fully acknowledged my work and the [government’s] work … including the recent handling of the Legco oath-taking [controversy],” Leung said.
The issue revolves around two localist lawmakers-elect who were disqualified by a local court. Beijing raised eyebrows when it pre-empted the Hong Kong judiciary by issuing an interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution, giving details on what amounted to a valid oath.
“Very simply put – and very forcefully – the president said there is no room whatsoever for Hong Kong independence under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement,” the chief executive added.
Xi was “very concerned about Hong Kong” but was also “very supportive of” the government’s work, Leung said.
The city’s top official said that he had not categorically spelled out the opposition of some Hongkongers to Beijing’s interpreting the city’s Basic Law provisions – a move some said undermined Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
Xi said Hong Kong “should enforce the Basic Law”, Leung said.
“The president knows full well about the views of different people” in the city, he added.
While fully acknowledging the work of Leung and of the government, the president told Leung to “lead the governance team of the SAR government to build broad social consensus, to focus on boosting economic development and improving the people’s well-being, to safeguard national unity, and to maintain social and political stability”, Xinhua reported.
Asked if he was let down by Xi not commenting on his re-election bid, the chief executive smiled and said: “I had no plan to raise any of my personal matters with the president in this meeting today, nor did I expect him to say anything about me standing for re-election or not.
“Let’s talk about re-election later,” Leung told the media.
The two leaders met at Xi’s hotel. In a media session at the start of the meeting, the president briefly shook Leung’s hand while smiling, then gave his opening remarks, which took less than a minute, saying: “It took 20 to 30 hours to fly here, right? It took a total of 27… 27 hours.”
After a brief pause, Leung continued with a comparison between Beijing and Hong Kong.
“Beijing is a bit nearer. The time [from Hong Kong] is more than 30 hours,” the chief executive said.
Xi then looked at the crowd of journalists and asked Leung: “A lot of Hong Kong media here?”
He replied: “Yes. Yes.”
Security guards then led journalists out after the 1 minute 46 second filming session.
Unlike the duty visit in Beijing last year, where Xi sat on the far end of the table with Leung on the side to signal the president’s authority, the two sat side by side this time.
On Xi’s side were Wang Huning, head of the Central Policy Research Office, Li Zhanshu, director of the communist party’s general office, and Yang Jiechi, state councillor and deputy leader of the central coordination group for Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Leung was accompanied by Edward Yau Tang-wah and Chan Kin-ping, director and senior special assistant of the Chief Executive’s Office.
The chief executive will leave Lima on Sunday night Peruvian time after a three-day visit to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Hong Kong and China are considered separate entities within the 21-economy bloc thanks to the city’s special status in the global economy.
Stuart Lau is reporting from Lima, Peru
Tags: APEC, Basic Law, Chan Kin-ping, China, circumventing Hong Kong's courts, democracy, Edward Yau Tang-wah, Hong Kong, Hong Kong media, Hong Kong's Legislative Council, independence, judicial independence, Leung, Leung Chun-ying, localist lawmakers, oath-taking, one country two systems, Peru, political stability, Xi Jinping, Yang Jiechi