Chinese Communist Party leader and President Xi Jinping has renewed his government’s commitment to allowing Hong Kong to manage its own affairs amid continuing anti-government protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Mr Xi made his remarks at a reception on the eve of a massive celebration of the People’s Republic’s 70th anniversary that threatens to be marred by clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong.
Demonstrators and police clashed for a second straight day on Sunday in Hong Kong, sparking further chaos in the city’s business and shopping belt and drawing fears of more ugly scenes during the week-long National Day holiday.
“We will continue to fully and faithfully implement the principles of ‘One country, two systems’ (and) ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’,” he said.
China’s approach is to ensure that Hong Kong and its fellow semi-autonomous region of Macao “prosper and progress alongside the mainland and embrace an even brighter future”, Xi said.
Earlier on Monday, Xi led other top officials in paying respects to the founder of the Communist state, Mao Zedong, ahead of the massive celebrations emphasising China’s rise to global prominence.
The unusual move saw Xi bow three times to Mao’s statue at his mausoleum in the centre of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and pay his respects to Mao’s embalmed corpse, which has lain in state in the hulking chamber since soon after his death in 1976.
It was believed to be the first visit to the mausoleum by Xi and other officials since 2013, the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth.
Xi also ascended the nearby Monument to the People’s Heroes to pay further tribute on what has been designated Martyr’s Day, just ahead of Tuesday’s National Day festivities, which will be marked by a massive military parade through the centre of the city of 20 million people.
Along with other top party officials, more than 4000 Chinese, including elderly military veterans and retired senior officials, “relatives of martyrs, honorees of national medals and honorary titles,” and members of the party’s youth organisation visited the monument to lay flowers and wreaths.
September 30 was designated Martyr’s Day by China’s legislature in 2014, a year after Mr Xi became president and began redoubling propaganda efforts to promote patriotism and glorify the party, as well as to cultivate a cult of personality surrounding himself unseen since the time of Mao.
The nationwide celebrations seek to highlight China’s enormous transformation from an impoverished state ravaged by Japan’s Second World War invasion and a following civil war into the world’s second-largest economy.
China now sits on the cutting edge of breakthrough technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G communications and its growing military and diplomatic clout increasingly challenges US leadership.
On Tuesday, Mr Xi is expected to preside from atop Tiananmen Gate over a parade that will display China’s rapidly developing arsenal, possibly including the nuclear-capable Dongfeng 41 missile that could reach the United States in 30 minutes.
Plans call for 15,000 troops, more than 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of military equipment to take part in the event.
The display of military prowess is seen as a way to underscore Beijing’s ambition to enforce claims to self-governing Taiwan, virtually the entire South China Sea and territory held by Japan.
The anniversary comes as China appears more stable than ever, 30 years after the party used its military to crush a pro-democracy movement centred on Tiananmen Square.