HONG KONG • Hong Kong's leader yesterday called on the city to unite behind its current political system, in the face of increasing calls for independence from China, as protesters were bundled off from the auditorium where he was speaking.
Mr Leung Chun Ying was giving an annual address as part of National Day celebrations marking the founding of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong in 1949, after communist forces won a civil war on the mainland.
Hong Kong is governed under a semi-autonomous "one country, two systems" arrangement - a deal made when the city was handed back to China by Britain in 1997. Mr Leung described the system as the "most beneficial and most practical" for Hong Kong. "One country, two systems needs each and every Hong Kong resident to defend it to their utmost," he said.
He also encouraged young Hong Kongers to visit China, saying there was "deep kinship" between the two sides.
A group of pro-democracy lawmakers interrupted the speech, shouting: "CY step down!"
Security officers escorted them from the hall at the convention centre, with one district councillor carried out.
Veteran Democratic Party legislator James To, one of the protesters, said Mr Leung had "caused divisions in the city and has made Hong Kongers feel they can't go on (with Mr Leung in charge)".
On Friday, China's Premier Li Keqiang said the government will remain faithful to the "one country, two systems" policy in Hong Kong and Macau affairs, and allow the two special administrative regions to play their roles in China's modernisation.
Regarding ties across the Taiwan strait, Mr Li said the Chinese mainland will continue to uphold the one-China principle, adhere to the 1992 Consensus, and oppose all forms of "Taiwan independence" to protect and promote peaceful development of cross-strait ties.
Mr Li was addressing a reception at the Great Hall of the People to mark the 67th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Chinese President Xi Jinping and senior leaders including Mr Zhang Dejiang attended the reception.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA