Carrie Lam meets Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People on December 16. Photo: RTHK

Chinese leaders on Monday urged Chief Executive Carrie Lam to continue to restore public order in Hong Kong and tackle the deep-rooted problems in the city to achieve long-term prosperity and stability.

Hong Kong has been facing its most severe crisis since the 1997 handover, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during an official meeting with Lam at the Ziguang Hall in Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in Beijing on Monday afternoon.

In a challenging situation and under a lot of pressure, Lam safeguarded the bottom line of the “one country two systems” principle, administered the city based on the law and carried out her duties with dedication, said Xi, adding that Lam had completed a lot of difficult tasks.

Xi also said the central government fully acknowledged Lam’s work as she showed courage and a sense of responsibility during a difficult time for Hong Kong. He said the central government would continue to support Lam and the Hong Kong Police Force’s public order enforcement efforts.

Carrie Lam with Xi Jinping in the Ziguang Hall on December 16. Photo: RTHK

Hong Kong’s economy had shown a significant decline with many sectors being seriously hurt due to the extradition saga, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a meeting with Lam in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday morning.

Li praised Lam for her efforts to lead the special administrative region and maintaining social stability by launching new measures to support enterprises and stabilize the job market. He said the central government fully recognized her contribution, which was not an easy task.

He also urged the people of Hong Kong to remain united to restore calm and order as soon as possible.

“Hong Kong has not yet stepped out of its difficult situation. It has to continue to stop violence and restore social order based on the law and tackle a series of deep-rooted social and economic problems in the city,” Li said.

Li said the central government would continue to implement the principle of “one country two systems” and support the Lam administration.

Lam said Hong Kong was facing a severe political, economic and social situation. She said the city’s economic growth had slowed to 0.5% since the first half of this year due to external factors, including the US-China trade dispute. She admitted that Hong Kong’s economy declined in the third quarter due to the social unrest.

The Hong Kong economy shrank 2.9% year-on-year between July and September of 2019, the first yearly economic contraction since the third quarter of 2009, when the economy declined 1.7%, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

Private consumption expenditure dropped by 3.4% during the third quarter, down from 1.3% growth in the second quarter. Also, gross domestic fixed capital formation slumped by 16.3% in the three months to September, faster than a 10.8% contraction in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, total exports of goods declined by 7.1% in the third quarter, compared with a contraction of 5.4% in the second quarter.

Lam left Hong Kong on Saturday to report to Chinese leaders in Beijing. On Monday, she met Li at the Hong Kong chamber in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, instead of the usual meeting venue at the Ziguang Hall.

The meeting was attended by Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng, State Councilor Xiao Jie, Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office’s Director Zhang Xiaoming and Wang Zhimin, Director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong.

On November 4, Lam had a chance to meet with Xi in Shanghai. It was the first official meeting between the two since anti-extradition protests broke out in June. On November 15, during a visit to Brazil for the 11th BRICS Summit, Xi reiterated Beijing’s support for the Hong Kong government’s efforts to bring an end to the chaos plaguing the city.

Xi said ending the riots and re-establishing public order should be the government’s top priorities.

Lam’s latest meetings with Chinese leaders came after the pro-establishment camp suffered a huge setback in the District Council elections on November 24. The pro-democracy camp won 385 seats, or 85%, of the 452 seats, and 17 chairman positions in 18 District Councils.

Lam was blamed by pro-establishment people during indoor meetings and accused of dragging down their performance in the election.

On December 10, Lam apologized to dozens of representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU), a pro-establishment political group, during an indoor meeting and promised to grant them some public duties.

On December 11, she met representatives of the New People’s Party, which saw all its 28 candidates lose in the election. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, said she would not accept Lam’s apology. She said she hoped Lam would improve her administering with real action.

Representatives of the New People’s Party meet with Carrie Lam on December 11. Photo: New People’s Party

Read: Lam praised by Beijing over handling HK protests

Read: Lam blamed, by losers as well as winners

Read: Lam apologizes to pro-establishment councillors

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