President Xi Jinping threw his support behind the development of Hong Kong's political system on Friday, shortly after the end of a monthslong illegal protest over election of the city's leader by universal suffrage in 2017.
During a meeting with Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Xi called for people from all circles in the city to unite for the interests of the nation and Hong Kong, to preserve stability and economic development.
The development of Hong Kong's political system should start from "local reality" and be conducted in an orderly manner based on the law, Xi said in Beijing, adding that it should also help to safeguard the nation's sovereignty, security and development.
The central government firmly supports the local government in pushing forward its development of the political system based on the Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini-constitution - and decisions made by the country's top legislature, Xi said.
Leung, making his first trip to Beijing since the 79-day protests ended last week, arrived on Thursday to report on his work to the central government.
The standoff, which paralysed key areas in Hong Kong's business and shopping districts, led to the temporary closure of some banks and office buildings.
Xi and Premier Li Keqiang, who met Leung earlier on Friday, gave their full approval to his leadership and the local government. Li said the Hong Kong government is unafraid of challenges and has managed to preserve overall stability in the city.
Leng Tiexun, deputy head of the One Country Two Systems Research Center under Macao Polytechnic Institute, said the central government's support comes at a critical time as the Hong Kong government faces difficulties because of the recent debate over universal suffrage.
The special administrative region is likely to see more protests over the issue before 2017, but not on the same scale, he said.
"The sit-ins seriously disrupted local people's lives and the rule of law, a core value of Hong Kong," he said.
On Friday, Xi and Li also met Macao Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who was in Beijing to report on his work.
Li said China's deepening reform and the rule of law will bring more opportunities for the development of Hong Kong and Macao, and he called on them to strengthen cooperation with the mainland.
The two cities' ties with the mainland have seen significant progress this year.
The landmark Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, aimed at linking the stock exchanges in these two cities, was launched in November.
This month, the mainland and Macao signed a new trade liberalization deal to ease conditions for Macao's service providers to set up businesses in neighbouring Guangdong province.