Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Thursday attributed continuing unrest in the territory to "misunderstanding" over Hong Kong's semiautonomous status beyond 2047.
While fielding questions at a legislature session, Lam said, "As long as we stick to the 'one country, two systems' principle, thoroughly understand and implement it, 'one country, two systems' will continue on a stable path and no changes will come after 2047."
Hong Kong, the former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, was promised a "high degree of autonomy" under the "one country, two systems" framework for at least 50 years. Whether the special status will continue beyond 2047 remains unclear.
"Do not ruin the principle by misunderstanding 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law," she said, addressing protesters.
She said that education particularly of young people will be strengthened to deepen their understanding of 'one country, two systems,' of the concept of nation and the development opportunities under the system.
Anti-government demonstrations have gripped Hong Kong since June last year, originally over an unpopular bill that sought to facilitate extraditions to the mainland.
Despite the complete withdrawal of the bill in October, the protests have continued, with the protesters' demands having grown to include an independent inquiry into police's use of force, a pardon for all the arrested and greater democracy.
To the disappointment of legislators demanding solutions to the unrest, Lam rejected accusations of police brutality and blamed violent protesters for the use of force.
Since the mass protests began, more than 7,000 protesters have been arrested, and of them 1,092 have been prosecuted, police chief Chris Tang revealed Thursday.