China's new leader Xi Jinping says Beijing's policy toward Hong Kong will remain unchanged despite the power transition.
There has been mounting concern that the central government may tighten its grip after President Hu Jintao's reference to external forces in the territory and a reminder by former Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office deputy director Zhang Xiaoming that the SAR has the constitutional duty to enact Article 23.
Xi gave the assurance during a meeting with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in Beijing yesterday. He also voiced support for Leung's governance.
Xi, who took over from Hu as the Communist Party's general- secretary in last month's leadership reshuffle, said: "I can say that the central government's policy directives toward Hong Kong and Macau will not change.
"What is crucial is that we need to gain an accurate understanding and implement the principle of `one country, two systems' and respect as well as safeguard the authoritarian status of the Basic Law."
Xi said the central government will continue to support Leung and his administration and praised his work as pragmatic.
"The SAR administration led by Mr Leung has been working in a proactive and pragmatic manner. All of you have a heavy workload and have been working hard," Xi said.
"The central government recognizes your work and will continue to firmly support you."
In response, Leung said Hong Kong can surely gain new momentum in development and make contributions to the motherland in the years head.
At the meeting were Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, Politburo members Li Yuanchao and Liu Yandong, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference vice chairman Liao Hui, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office director Wang Guangya and Zhang Xiaoming, who is also the newly appointed director of the Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
City University political scientist James Sung Lap-kung said Xi's remarks were aimed at pacifying Hongkongers after the power transition in Beijing.
During the party's 18th congress Hu stressed that it was necessary to guard against external forces. Zhang Xiaomin, meanwhile, wrote an article calling on the SAR to pass the national security law required under Article 23 of the Basic Law in due course.
Pan-democrats took these as signs the central government may tighten its grip on the city.
Leung, who is on his first duty visit to Beijing since taking office, is expected to meet Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao today.