Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said residents have a duty to defend China's sovereignty, a clear warning to activists demanding full democracy for the Chinese territory.
In her maiden policy address to the Legislative Council Wednesday, Lam said the semi-autonomous city has an "obligation to say 'no' to any attempt to threaten our country's sovereignty, security and development interests." Lam also said Hong Kongers are obligated to "nurture our next generation into citizens with a sense of national identity."
Lam was elected in March as Hong Kong's first-ever female leader.
Hong Kong enjoys numerous freedoms under the 1997 deal that handed the city back to China from British rule. But the city has witnessed a growing pro-democracy movement, led mainly by students who fear losing those freedoms as Beijing increasingly asserts its authority. Tens of thousands of student protesters took to the streets in 2014 in what became known as the Umbrella Movement to demand full democracy for Hong Kong.
During a visit to Hong Kong in July to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that any attempts to challenge Beijing's ultimate authority "is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible."