President Xi Jinping pledged to “resolutely oppose” any attempt to divide the country – a speech on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sun Yat-sen – seen by many as modern China’s founding father.
He said, while standing under a giant portrait of Sun, “We will never allow anyone, any organization or political party to rip out any part of our territory at any time or in any form.”
A key principle of Xi’s rule has been his pledge to restore the country to immensity, undoing the “century of humiliation” during which the earlier Qing Empire and later the Republic of China were laid low by foreign powers, with territories including Hong Kong, Manchuria and much of Shanghai shaved off into colonies and concessions.
Anxiety over separatism can be seen in the hardline policies embraced by Beijing in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as an increasingly aggressive stance towards the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which Xi has vowed to unify with the mainland — by force, if necessary.
Still such policies can often rebound. Hong Kong, in particular, displeasure stemming towards Beijing has grown in recent years. In the past 12 months, as anti-government turmoil was met with heavy policing, chants such as “Hong Kong independence, the only hope” were more commonly heard among parts of the protest movement.
The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has said the law will ensure “the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.”