China’s Leader Warns Against ‘External Forces’ in Macau and Hong Kong

Xi Jinping celebrated the 20th anniversary of the return of Macau to Chinese rule and said Beijing would brook no challenges to its sovereignty.

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 20, 2019
By: Steven Lee Myers

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, hailed Macau’s achievements — and its loyalty to Beijing.Credit…Carmo .Correia/EPA, via Shutterstock

BEIJING — China’s leader, Xi Jinping, praised the Chinese gambling hub of Macau on Friday for its patriotism and delivered a veiled rebuke to nearby Hong Kong that Beijing would not allow challenges to its sovereignty or the interference of “external forces.”

Mr. Xi spoke on the 20th anniversary of the return of Macau to Chinese rule, a significant event for Beijing as it wrangles with protests in nearby Hong Kong that have evolved into the most direct challenge to Communist Party rule in decades.

The handover of Macau, the former Portuguese colony, in 1999 took place two years after Britain ceded sovereignty of Hong Kong. In the years since, the two cities have functioned as semiautonomous territories with greater economic and political freedoms — up to a limit, Mr. Xi made clear.

Mr. Xi’s remarks amounted to a warning for Hong Kong, where protests and clashes with the police have convulsed the city since June. Macau, he said, provided “a gorgeous chapter” in the history of the arrangement China calls “one country, two systems” by demonstrating its fealty to the central authority in Beijing.

“The long-term prosperity and stability of Macau will, with firm determination, never be shaken by temporary twists and turns,” he said in televised remarks at the East Asian Games Dome, an indoor stadium near Macau’s glittering casino hub, the Cotai Strip.

He warned that “external forces” sought to challenge China’s governance of the two territories. Officials have blamed the United States, Britain and others in the West for fomenting the unrest in Hong Kong as a way to undermine China.

“The will of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests is as firm as a rock,” he said. “We will never allow any external forces to interfere in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.”

Mr. Xi’s speech capped a three-day visit surrounding Friday’s anniversary and the swearing in of a new government for the territory. The new chief executive, Ho Iat Seng, who was elected in October by an unanimous vote of an electoral committee, returned the praise for Mr. Xi and the central government, saying Chinese rule was the foundation of Macau’s fortune.

Macau’s new leader, Ho Iat Seng, was elected in October by an electoral committee. He praised the central government, saying it was the foundation of Macau’s fortune.Credit…Jason Lee/Reuters

Macau’s new leader, Ho Iat Seng, was elected in October by an electoral committee. He praised the central government, saying it was the foundation of Macau’s fortune.Credit…Jason Lee/Reuters

“The great motherland will always strongly back Macau,” Mr. Ho said.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the anniversary underscored the heavy symbolism China invests in Macau and Hong Kong: territories that it feels were humiliatingly carved off by Western imperial powers and only returned to their rightful place in the motherland under the rule of the Communist Party.    [FULL  STORY]

By