Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has said the “one country, two systems” framework under which the city is meant to enjoy autonomy from China could be extended beyond 2047 if loyalty to Beijing is upheld.
In her first appearance at the Legislative Council since October, Lam answered a question from a lawmaker about what might happen in 2047, the year the semi-autonomous territory is meant to return to Chinese rule.
“As long as we uphold the principle of one country, two systems … we will have sufficient reasons to believe that it will not change after 2047, and it will continue to develop steadily for long in the future,” Lam said.
Under the terms of the former British colony’s 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong is supposed to keep its freedoms and separate political system for 50 years. Critics say those terms have already been broken as Beijing’s influence over the city has grown under a local government backed by China.
Lam said the recent months of protests would encourage Beijing to abandon the experiment, and said young Hongkongers should “treasure” the framework rather than “bring damage to this important system”.
“Otherwise, they will be creating the situation that they are in fact worried about today,” she said, according to the South China Morning Post.
Lam’s comments are unlikely to appease the protesters. During the question and answer session, several pro-democracy opposition lawmakers were ejected from the legislature after they shouted slogans and held up signs, including one that portrayed Lam as a vampire with bat wings.
The protests have lessened in intensity over the last few weeks but residents continue to rally against the government, calling for an independent investigation into police behaviour and free elections, among other demands.
Lam has repeatedly rejected the demands and on Thursday continued to support the police force. “I would not accept anyone accusing the police of brutality,” she said.