Skip to main content

Xi marks 25th anniversary of UK Hong Kong handover, deflects criticism

Jul 01, 2022


Chinese Leader Xi Jinping wrapped up a two-day trip to Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the city being handed over from British to Chinese control. Thursday and Friday’s trip was Xi’s first outside of mainland China since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“The central government fully supports Hong Kong in maintaining its unique status and advantages for a long time, consolidating its position as an international hub for finance, shipping and trade, safeguarding a free, open and regulated business environment, maintaining the common law system, and expanding smooth and convenient international connections,” Xi said Friday. “Thanks to the full support of the central authorities, the vitality and strength of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, as well as Hong Kong citizens’ diligence and determination to seek improvements, Hong Kong succeeded to overcome each and every challenge.”

Xi’s vision of the “one country, two systems” has been a source of criticism from the West, including Great Britain itself. In a video post marking the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Beijing of failing to comply with the arrangement.

When the British handed Hong Kong to China in 1997, it was promised 50 years of self-government, as well as freedoms of assembly, speech and press that are not allowed on the mainland. But since 2019’s pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, authorities have used a sweeping national security law to arrest scores of activists, media figures and democracy supporters.

“We’ve given BN(O) Hong Kongers a pathway to reside in the U.K. This, after all, is a place where freedom of speech, assembly and association is respected, not criminalized,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a video marking the anniversary. “25 years ago we made a promise to the territory and its people and we intend to keep it. Doing all we can to hold China to its commitments so that Hong Kong is once again run by the people of Hong Kong for the people of Hong Kong.”

Responding to the video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the U.K. “has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of supervision over Hong Kong after its handover,” adding that “there’s no such thing as commitment.”

“The U.K. should face up to the reality that Hong Kong has returned to the motherland for 25 years, look at Hong Kong’s development objectively and fairly, respect China’s sovereignty and unity, stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, and stop making trouble for China-UK relations,” Zhao said Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Shannon Longworth: Today marks 25 years since Great Britain handed over control of Hong Kong to China.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping marked the occasion with a speech in the city — his first trip outside of mainland China since the pandemic began.
Xi praised Hong Kong officials for overcoming what he called “violent social unrest.”
It’s a reference to pro-democracy protests that took place in 2019.
The protests were followed by a China-led crackdown that’s snuffed out dissent and shut down independent media.
Xi also countered accusations from the West that Beijing has undermined the freedoms and autonomy promised to Hong Kong when the city was handed over.
Chris Patten | last British governor of Hong Kong: “People in Hong Kong know from their own families why they’re in Hong Kong. To get from Communist China, into a British colony, a safe haven. And that’s of course a reason why China is morally embarrassed about the history of the colony.”
Shannon Longworth: China currently allows regions like Hong Kong and neighboring Macao to maintain their capitalist system and a degree of autonomy.
However in his speech today — Xi said Beijing has “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong — and the city should respect Chinese leadership.