State leader Zhang Dejiang to give keynote speech on Hong Kong issues

National People’s Congress chair meets city’s 36 deputies to national legislature at Great Hall of the People

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 10:10am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 11:18am

National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang is set to give another keynote address on Hong Kong issues on Monday morning, two days after he told the city’s advisers to Beijing that the central government enjoyed a “substantive” power to appoint Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Zhang, the Communist Party’s No 3 official and the state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs, began his meeting with the city’s 36 deputies to the national legislature at the Great Hall of the People at 9am.

He will listen to speeches by several deputies, including former security minister Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, before making his own.

Seven deputies put down their names to speak at the occasion. These included Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, the city’s sole deputy to the NPC Standing Committee, who praised Premier Li Keqiang’s annual work report as “accurate” and “substantial”, followed by Laura Cha Shih Mei-lung.

Monday morning’s meeting comes at a sensitive time – just three weeks before the chief executive election on March 26. It also comes a day after Li made the unprecedented move of publicly condemning Hong Kong independence in his report, saying that the movement would “lead nowhere”. Li also pledged that Beijing would hold fast to the principle of “one country, two systems”.

On Friday last week, Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also made the historic move of hailing the NPC Standing Committee’s interpretation of the Hong Kong Basic Law last November.

The ruling was made weeks after two pro-independence lawmakers pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” and insulted China as they were sworn in at the Legislative Council. They were stripped of their seats after the NPCSC ruled that “insincere” oath-taking would be punished by instant disqualification.

The setting of the meeting followed that of last year’s seminar, where Zhang joined officials and senior Hong Kong deputies at a large rectangular table at the front of the hall. The Hong Kong deputies separately sat in several rows, and the sofas used in the past were replaced with chairs.

In meetings from 1997 to 2015, the state leader and the convenor of the Hong Kong delegation were seated at one end of the room in the Great Hall of the People, while other delegates sat on causal sofas lined up on the two sides of the room.

A year ago, on March 6, Zhang warned that Hong Kong should avoid politicising its economic problems and resorting to “street politics” as this would tarnish the city’s image and scare off foreign investors.

These remarks came a month after hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Mong Kok. The rioters were branded “radical separatists” by Beijing officials.

Also attending the meeting on Monday morning are Wang Guangya, director of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Zhang Xiaoming, head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong; and Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei.