BEIJING (Reuters) - China's central government fully approves of the leadership of Hong Kong's chief executive Leung Chun-ying and the work of the territory's government which has shown itself "unafraid of challenges", Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday.
The former British colony was roiled recently by three months of pro-democracy demonstrations, branded illegal by both Beijing and the Hong Kong government.
"Over the last year, you and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government have been unafraid of challenges, have united in struggle, steadily pushed forward various projects, maintained Hong Kong's broad stability and realized new development," Li told Leung, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
"The central government offers full approval of your work and the work of the Special Administrative Region's government," Li added.
Hong Kong is an important financial and trade center, whose achievements have not come easily and should be valued and given attention by the city's people, he said.
"(I) hope that Hong Kong fully gives play to its strengths and maintains a good business environment and competitiveness."
Hong Kong returned to China in 1997. Under a "one country, two systems" formula, the city has some autonomy from the Communist Party-ruled mainland and a promise of eventual universal suffrage.
Beijing has allowed a vote in the next chief executive election in 2017, but insists on screening candidates first.
Xinhua quoted Leung as saying his government would in the coming year dedicate itself to maintaining Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and "pushing forward in accordance with the law development of the political system".
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)