No need to keep citing Hong Kong's autonomy says Beijing rep, as familiar phrases are left out of premier's report

Liaison office seeks to calm fears after key policy phrases are left out of annual work report for first time in 11 years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 11:23am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 4:58pm

There is no need to repeat such catchphrases as “Hongkongers governing Hong Kong” or to note that the city enjoys “a high degree of autonomy” every time officials mention the principle of “one country, two systems”.

That was the message from the head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Thursday morning.

Zhang Xiaoming was responding to questions raised after the two key policy phrases were left out of the Chinese premier’s annual work report for the first time in 11 years. Premier Li Keqiang delivered his maiden speech yesterday morning.

"I understand that the people of Hong Kong are worried about it. But the phrases were left out only to simplify the wording of the report. It doesn’t mean any change in the central government’s policy on Hong Kong," said Zhang Xiaoming.

He made the comments shortly before Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Dejiang, who chairs the National People’s Congress and leads the party’s leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, addressed 36 Hong Kong deputies to the NPC at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday morning.

During an hour-long closed-door meeting Zhang Dejiang reiterated that for universal suffrage to be implemented in Hong Kong in 2017, the method must follow the rules in the Basic Law, according to Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the NPC’s Standing Committee.

Such a statement is a coded way of saying all candidates must be put forward by a nominating committee – a body whose members will mostly be Beijing loyalists.

Zhang was also quoted to have issued a thinly veiled attack on the pro-democracy Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, which threatens to block roads in the city’s financial district if authorities fail to deliver on genuine democracy.

“He said that if [people] claim to be fighting for universal suffrage, but are bringing chaos to Hong Kong in essence, they could be blocking democratic development in the city,” Fan said.

Fan also said that Zhang reiterated that “it is for the benefit of Hong Kong to elect a chief executive who loves the country and Hong Kong”.

“[Zhang] also tried to explain that there was no need to be alarmed about the omission of the eight Chinese words,” Fan added, referring to Premier Li Keqiang’s report yesterday which omitted the key phrases of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” and “high degree of autonomy” – the first omission in 11 years.

It was the second time in three days that Zhang Dejiang had addressed Hong Kong delegates to national bodies.

On Tuesday, Zhang Dejiang told about 200 Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that "Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy is not complete autonomy".

Zhang Xiaoming and Wang Guangya, head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei and vice-chairwoman and Hong Kong’s former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie also attended Thursday morning’s meeting.