Beijing acknowledges friction between HK residents and mainlanders
Liaison office chief acknowledges friction between Hongkongers and mainlanders but says 'occasional conflicts' don't paint a true picture
Tony Cheung, Joshua But and Colleen Lee in Macau
In a rare admission, a top Beijing representative has acknowledged the friction between Hong Kong residents and mainlanders.
But Zhang Xiaoming, who took over as head of the central government's liaison office in December, said there were only occasional conflicts and they did not reflect the developing relationship between the two sides.
Zhang also said there was no problem that was too big to solve if people in Hong Kong and on the mainland stayed rational and friendly towards each other.
Issues such as parallel-goods trading, mainlanders giving birth in Hong Kong and the recent poor treatment of tourists from across the border have strained relations on both sides.
Zhang was speaking at the liaison office's spring reception last night. He also acknowledged Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's work for the second time in three days.
"The new government under Leung has made livelihood issues a policy priority, and … won extensive recognition among the people. Just like [the people of Hong Kong], I have great expectations about Hong Kong's development."
On Tuesday, Zhang said Leung's government was more popular with the public than the picture painted in certain sections of the media.
Speaking of a growing integration between Hong Kong and the mainland, Zhang expected more co-operation to come.
"There are occasional, minor conflicts as the people [of Hong Kong and the mainland] interact frequently. Yet these conflicts do not reflect or represent the mainstream of the development of our relationship. If we keep a rational, friendly and pragmatic attitude, do not exaggerate, and don't say or do things that could hurt [the people's] sentiments, no problem is insoluble," Zhang stressed.
He also emphasised that in implementing the "one country, two systems" principle, it was crucial to "seek the common ground of the 'one country', while preserving differences between the 'two systems'."
Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who attended the reception, said Zhang had played down the level of conflict.
"I think it is quite well-permeated among the local people … and Hongkongers believe it is not a small issue," Tong said.
He suggested the local and central government needed to work better together to solve such problems.
In Macau, the chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, Wu Bangguo , who was on the second day of a three-day visit, stressed that implementing the Basic Law must be guided by the principles of "safeguarding the country's sovereignty, national security, development interests and favouring Macau's long-term prosperity and stability".
Wu hailed Macau's achievements as he commemorated the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law.
"I hereby represent the central government to fully affirm the achievements Macau has made since the handover 13 years ago and believe that Macau will have a better tomorrow." Wu, in his first official visit to the city, also praised the "unprecedented fast growth" of Macau's economy. Per capita GDP had surged from US$14,000 in 2000 to US$66,000 in 2011, and social security, education and health care systems were well in place, he said.
Political commentator Ching Cheong, a veteran China watcher, said Macau's handover had been more successful than that of Hong Kong in the eyes of Beijing.
"When the central government praises Macau, it is mirroring its dissatisfaction towards Hong Kong," he said. "The fact is Macau has much less dissent against the central government. At the same time, Macau also relies very much on Beijing's help to run the government."
Macau Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on said mainland support was the city's "strongest shield". He pledged to boost collaboration with the mainland and safeguard and foster the executive-led political system.
A British paper earlier reported that Beijing would clamp down on VIP junket operators who bring gamblers from the mainland to Macau. The news has pushed down stocks of gaming companies. The high rollers are said to account for about two-thirds of casino revenue in the world's largest gambling hub.