Hong Kong leader says special status can endure beyond 2047

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said yesterday that the ‘one country, two systems’ framework under which the city enjoys freedoms unknown in China could continue after a 2047 deadline if loyalty to Beijing is upheld.

Lam’s comments at the Legislative Council appeared to be an appeal to those in the city who see Beijing as tightening its control over the semi-autonomous territory’s civic, economic and political life.

Hong Kong has been wracked by often violent anti-government protests since June, although they have diminished considerably in scale following a landslide win by opposition candidates in races for district councillors late last year.Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise that it would maintain its own capitalist economy and Western-style institutions for 50 years.

“Only if we insist on implementing the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and practise it continuously and fully… then I think there will be enough grounds for ‘one country, two systems’ to move ahead smoothly and there would be no change after 2047,” Lam said.

“We have to uphold the principle of ‘One country’. Only by doing this, can ‘one country, two systems’ be moving forward smoothly.”

Lam’s comments echo language from China’s Communist Party leaders, who said Hong Kong’s unique system is predicated on respect for Chinese sovereignty over the territory.

Beijing routinely accuses political opponents in Hong Kong of seeking to split the territory from the mainland with the backing of foreign forces.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam appears on a TV screen while speaking during a question and answer session at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AP