China won't allow foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong, Macau: Xi

China won't allow foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong, Macau: Xi

Xi Jinping in Macau
China's President Xi Jinping (C) singing in Macau on Dec 19, 2019, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the handover from Portugal to China. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace) 

MACAU: President Xi Jinping said on Friday (Dec 20) that China would not allow foreign forces to interfere with its special regions of Hong Kong and Macau, as he swore in a new pro-Beijing government for the gambling hub of Macau.

Xi, speaking at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Macau's handover to Chinese rule, heaped praise on the former Portuguese colony for its patriotism and loyalty but did not refer directly to six months of anti-government protests in the nearby former British colony of Hong Kong.

READ: China warns it won't tolerate dissent in Hong Kong

READ: Mainland Chinese in Hong Kong worry as anti-China sentiment swells

"I must emphasize, since Hong Kong and Macau’s return to the motherland, dealing with these two Special Administrative Regions' affairs is entirely China's internal affairs and none of the business of foreign forces,” Xi said.

"We do not let any external forces interfere.”

Macau returned to Chinese rule on Dec 20, 1999, with the same "one country, two systems" formula aimed at ensuring a high degree of autonomy under which Hong Kong is governed.

A picture of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping is seen on a giant screen during a cultural performa
A picture of late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping is seen on a giant screen during a cultural performance in Macau, China December 19, 2019, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's return to China. REUTERS/Jason Lee

While protesters in Hong Kong, across the mouth of the Pearl River, are furious about what they see as Beijing's erosion of their freedoms, Macau has seen little dissent.

Beijing denies undermining Hong Kong's autonomy and has repeatedly blamed foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, for stirring up trouble in the Asian financial hub.

President Xi Jinping oversaw the inuaguration of Macau's new leader Ho Iat-seng
President Xi Jinping oversaw the inuaguration of Macau's new leader Ho Iat-seng AFP/Philip FONG

Xi, wearing a black suit and maroon tie, swore in new Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng and his administration, which will run the enclave of several islands for the next five years.

Ho was selected by a pro-Beijing committee in a similar process to the way Hong Kong's leader is chosen.

Xi encouraged diversification of Macau's casino-dependent economy, urging it to grasp opportunities brought by a regional investment zone known as the Greater Bay Area. He also stressed further integration with the mainland, although he did not announce any specific steps.

'ROCK SOLID'

Officials and corporate executives have been expecting Beijing to reward Macau for its loyalty - in contrast to the defiance on the streets of Hong Kong - with measures including a new yuan-denominated stock exchange.

Xi said Macau's patriotism was "the most important reason" for the success of its "one country, two systems formula of governance".

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

He said China would be unwavering in the defence of its sovereignty.

"The will of the Chinese government and the Chinese people to safeguard national sovereignty, security and interest in development is rock solid," Xi said.

Performers take part in a cultural performance in Macau
Performers take part in a cultural performance in Macau, China December 19, 2019, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's return to China. REUTERS/Jason Lee

"The forward steps of the Chinese nation's rejuvenation are unstoppable."

Macau, with a population of 620,000, has been decked out for the anniversary with national flags and red banners hanging over schools, office towers and draped along roads.

Security and border controls were tight for his three-day visit, which ends on Friday, to prevent any spillover of dissent from Hong Kong.

Journalists, activists and even the heads of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong were barred from entering the city in the run-up the visit. Macau authorities have not commented on the issue.

Ferry and light rail services have been restricted for the visit with operators citing security concerns.

Source: Reuters/ad

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