Hong Kong's leader Leung Chun-ying said on Wednesday (17 January) that independence of the city state from China is not possible.

The chief executive, who was delivering his final policy address before he steps down from office after serving the financial hub for five years, told the city's legislature that "there is no room for independence or any kind of separation" from China.

The comment from Leung came amid growing calls from activists for the city state's independence.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to mainland China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement, albeit with its own independent legal system.

But the ruling Communist Party in Beijing has ultimate control over the country.

A rare interpretation of Hong Kong's mini constitution, the Basic Law, by China's parliament in November 2016, which barred pro-independence lawmakers in the city from taking oath of office, had prompted at least 5,000 people to march in protest through the streets on New Year's Day.

Beijing's intervention has fuelled concern among many Hong Kong citizens that China's government is eroding the city's wide autonomy.

Residents are anxious about the future governance of the region. The constitutional principle of "one country, two systems" is set to expire in 2047.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying presents his policy address at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China REUTERS/Bobby Yip