Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa has been awarded an honourary title by President Xi Jinping in Beijing as part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

It’s the the first such ceremony since the founding of the modern nation in 1949 and Tung is the only person from Hong Kong to receive an award at the event.

He was given the title of an outstanding contributor to the One Country and Two Systems principle. At the Great Hall of the People, President Xi put a gold and silver coloured medal over his neck and shook hands with him.

Tung was among 28 people who were given honourary titles for their contributions to the nation. During the grand ceremony, eight people, including Nobel prize-winner Tu Youyou, were awarded national medals and six foreigners were recipients of the Friendship Medal.

The 42 recipients were mostly nominated by the Communist Party’s leadership last month.

Addressing the event, President Xi said the recipients’ deeds and contributions will always be marked in the history of the People’s Republic.

Tung resigned before finishing his second term as chief executive in 2005. Two years earlier, 500,000 people marched to demand he step down over the attempt to introduce Article 23 national security legislation.

In the mid 1980s, Tung’s shipping company, OOCL, was saved from bankruptcy by a huge cash bailout from Beijing.