New China-backed leader of Hong Kong says no room for independence

(Adds comment, details)

BEIJING/HONG KONG, April 11 (Reuters) - Hong Kong

leader-elect Carrie Lam said on Tuesday there is no room for

moves towards independence in the former British colony which

she said needs the support of the central government in Beijing

to boost economic development over the next five years.

Leaders in Beijing have been increasingly concerned about a

fledgling independence movement in the financial hub that

returned to mainland rule in 1997 with a promise of autonomy.

Hong Kong has seen tumultuous times over the past couple of

years, with pro-democracy protests quelled, an increase in what

many residents see as creeping interference by Beijing and the

rise of a small but vocal movement pushing for independence.

"On the issue of Hong Kong independence, in line with what

the premier has said, there is no future and no room," Lam told

reporters in Beijing after Premier Li Keqiang presented her with

a letter of appointment as chief executive, paving the way for

her to take office on July 1.

"In the next five years, in particular in economic

development, there are many areas in which we need support from

the central government," added Lam, who also met President Xi

Jinping.

The Chinese-controlled city's former chief secretary was

chosen in March to become its first female leader by a

1,200-person "election committee" stacked with pro-Beijing and

pro-establishment loyalists.

Lam has said unifying society and healing political

divisions would be among her most urgent tasks. Making housing

more affordable in one of the world's most expensive property

markets is also among her top priorities.

Huge pro-democracy protests in late 2014 brought parts of

the city to a standstill and hindered policy-making and

legislative work.

The promotion of independence has long been taboo in Hong

Kong amid fears in Beijing the notion could spread to activists

in other places and become a challenge to central government

rule.

The next few months will be critical for incumbent leader

Leung Chun-ying and Lam, with Xi expected to visit on July 1 to

celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover from

British to Chinese rule, with protests expected.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing and Donny Kwowk in

Hong Kong, Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Nick

Macfie)