HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang praised the Hong Kong government’s efforts in revitalizing the economy as it rolls back COVID-19 restrictions, in a meeting on Thursday with the territory’s leader in Beijing.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee is on his first trip to the capital to deliver an annual year-end report to leaders. He is expected to meet with President Xi Jinping to discuss the city’s political, economic and COVID-19 situations before returning to Hong Kong on Saturday.
Li expressed his approval of Lee’s work over the past six months, during which most of the city’s COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, helping to restore Hong Kong’s image as a vibrant financial hub.
“The fates of Hong Kong and the motherland are closely intertwined,” Li said. “I hope the Hong Kong government will unite and lead the people of Hong Kong to contribute its advantages as it integrates into the national development plan in accordance with the country’s needs.”
The city should continue to strengthen its position as an international financial center and global trading and maritime hub as it integrates into China’s development, he added.
Lee, a former security minister, took over the city’s top job from Carrie Lam on July 1. Lam left after five tumultuous years that saw the city rocked by massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, a subsequent political crackdown that crushed dissent and the coronavirus outbreak that killed thousands of people and hammered the city’s economy.
In an election in May, Lee won over 99% of the vote from a committee stacked with mostly pro-Beijing members as the race’s sole candidate. He is the city’s fifth chief executive after the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
A day before Lee left for Beijing, he said he would convey Hong Kongers’ hopes to reopen the border with mainland China, which is seen as key to further boosting the city’s economy. Most checkpoints between Hong Kong and China have been closed during much of the pandemic.