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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's central government strongly supports efforts by the government in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong to curb moves by some promoting independence for the global financial hub, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Friday.
Chinese leaders are increasingly concerned about a fledgling independence movement in the former British colony that returned to mainland rule in 1997 with a promise of autonomy and recent protests in the city.
Meeting in Beijing's Zhongnanhai leadership compound, Xi told Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying that the central government fully affirms Leung's work, state news agency Xinhua said.
"The central government staunchly supports the government of the special administrative region in curbing the activities of 'Hong Kong independence'," Xinhua paraphrased Xi as telling Leung.
Hong Kong's success under the "one country, two systems" agreement under which it returned to Beijing's rule has been obvious for all to see, Xi added, though admitted not all was plain sailing.
"'One country, two systems' is a new undertaking, and it's normal that in its practice new situations and problems may arise," he said, without explaining what those might be.
Hong Kong was developing stably economically, politically and in society, and Beijing wants its people to be happy and society harmonious, Xi added.
Leung said earlier this month he would not stand for re-election in a 2017 vote for chief executive for family reasons, in a surprise announcement that throws open the race for the leadership.
Xi said he respected that decision and praised him for his work, saying that on important issues such as curbing Hong Kong independence and handling street violence he worked with strict accordance to the Basic Law and National People's Congress' interpretation of that law.
Beijing last month staged a rare interpretation of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, last month to effectively bar pro-independence city lawmakers from taking office there.
Hong Kong returned to China under the "one country, two systems" agreement that ensured its freedoms and wide-ranging autonomy, including a separate legal system.
But Communist Party rulers in Beijing have ultimate control, and some Hong Kong people are concerned they are increasingly interfering to head off dissent.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Venus Wu in Hong Kong; Editing by Nick Macfie