Hong Kong Chief Executive CY Leung
Speculation rife that CY Leung lost Beijing's favour as he did not seek second term Bobby Yip/Reuters

Chinese premier Li Keqiang has hailed Hong Kong's outgoing Chief Executive CY Leung for leaving the quasi-autonomous city-state in a better shape. Li heralded Leung by saying the Hong Kong leader was both "proactive and pragmatic" when it comes to dealing with sensitive affairs.

Endorsing that chief executive had the full backing of the Chinese communist party, Li also hailed the economic success of Hong Kong, a former British colony, under Leung's leadership.

Leung is currently on the final leg of his three-day official visit to China before he steps down. The duo had met in Beijing on Friday (23 December) and the Hong Kong official will next meet President Xi Jinping before he heads back.

"The central government fully endorses your work as well as the SAR government's work. The central government will continue to steadfastly uphold the 'one country, two systems', 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and 'high degree of autonomy' principles," the Chinese premier aid.

Li continued: "We believe that under the central government's support, the SAR government has the capability – and Hong Kong residents the wisdom – to seize the opportunities of the motherland's development."

However, he made no mention of the 62-year-old's surprise decision in not seeking a second term. Li's reaffirmation comes just as there is rising speculation that Leung, a trusted aide of Beijing, had fallen out in favour with the Chinese government.

Responding to Li's praise, Leung said: "Hong Kong's economy has grown mildly, with the employment rate reaching a new high and home prices stabilising," before adding that the administration has "achieved some results" in improving the livelihood of the Hong Kongers.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also threw his weight behind Leung and said: "The chief executive is young and talented. You love the country as well as Hong Kong. In the face of complicated internal and external situations, you have truly upheld the 'one country, two systems' policy, and painstakingly dedicated yourself to much beneficial work for the country and Hong Kong."

Hong Kong has witnessed some of the most turbulent times under Leung's rule as there were lengthy protests against China's growing influence on the state. Pro-democracy demonstrations protracted for a long time threatening to seriously alter fragile Hong Kong-China relations.