Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has given her clear support to electoral reforms that are likely to further exclude opposition voices and cement Beijing's control over the semi-autonomous Chinese city's politics.
Her comments came a day after a top Beijing official signaled major changes would be coming to ensure Hong Kong is run by "patriots," a clear sign that China will no longer tolerate dissenting voices, 23 years after the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule with a promise it could maintain its own rights and freedoms for 50 years.
Government critics and Western governments accuse Beijing of going back on its word and effectively ending the "one country, two systems" framework for governing the dynamic Asian financial hub.
Lam said political strife and unrest in the city, including anti-government protests in 2019 as well as protests in 2014, showed there were always some people who are "rather hostile" to the central authorities in China.
"I can understand that the central authorities are very concerned, they do not want the situation to deteriorate further in such a way that 'one country, two systems' cannot be implemented," Lam said at a regular news briefing.
A day earlier, Xia Baolong, director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said Hong Kong could only be ruled by "patriots," which exclude those who lobby other countries for foreign sanctions or "troublemakers."
The electoral changes are expected to be discussed and possibly passed at next month's meeting of the National People's Congress, China's rubber-stamp legislature, and its advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Australian Associated Press