HONG KONG — Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that challenges to stability in China or Hong Kong would be “absolutely impermissible” as he spoke at the swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong’s new leader Carrie Lam on the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain.
“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the Central Government…or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible,” Xi said.
Xi stressed the importance of harmony in the former British colony, calling on it to implement systems to safeguard national security and implement a patriotic national education curriculum for its youth.
“(Hong Kong) needs to enhance education and raise public awareness of the history and culture of the Chinese nation,” Xi said.
Xi said the “one country, two systems” policy that allows Hong Kong to retain its legal, governance and capitalist economic structures separate from those of mainland China was “advanced first and foremost to realise and uphold national unity.”
The election of Carrie Lam to the city’s top job in March was marred by allegations that Beijing had placed pressure on the roughly 1,200-member committee that elects the Chief Executive.
Lam’s term will be divisive as it is likely that Beijing will press her to pass a controversial National Security law that would prevent treason, succession, sedition and subversion against the Central People’s Government.
Plans for that law were shelved in 2003 after 500,000 people took to the streets on July 1 to protest.
Earlier Saturday, more than 20 members of the political parties League of Social Democrats and Demosisto attempted to stage a protest near the exhibition centre where Xi was due to make his speech.
They were taken away by police after a pro-Beijing group tried to confront the group that included activist Joshua Wong, but were later released.
Other protestors engaged in a scuffle with opponents who destroyed a wooden coffin that was to be used as a prop, according to images on social media.
Wong and other pro-democracy activists say China is in violation of the treaty that ceded Hong Kong to China by refusing to grant its residents the right to nominate and elect the Chief Executive.
Protestors are planning to take part in the annual July 1 protest march which begins at 3pm from Victoria Park.