China's President Xi Jinping (Front left) and Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (Front right) flank Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski at the Lima APEC summit. Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called on Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to uphold national unity and maintain social and political stability.

The two met on the sidelines of the APEC summit in the Peruvian capital Lima at the weekend amid deepening concerns in Beijing over a fledgling independence movement in Hong Kong and recent street protests in the city.

Xi said Leung should “resolutely uphold national unity and maintain social and political stability,” the state news agency Xinhua said on Monday, adding that Xi offered Leung and his government full support.

Hong Kong’s High Court last week backed a government demand to bar two recently elected lawmakers from the city’s legislature, after the court and Beijing both ruled they had insulted China when taking their oath of office.

Pro-independence rebels Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, sparked controversy last month when they displayed a banner declaring “Hong Kong is not China” and substituted derogatory terms for “China” while taking their oaths.

Demonstrators angry at Beijing’s ruling against the two lawmakers clashed with riot police two weeks ago, unfurling umbrellas to block pepper spray in scenes reminiscent of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, dubbed the “Umbrella Movement”, that brought key intersections to a halt for weeks on end.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement that ensured its freedoms and wide-ranging autonomy, including a separate legal system.

But Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control, stepping in to interpret the Basic Law, and some Hong Kong people are concerned they are increasingly interfering to head off dissent.

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