Xi’s speech shows Beijing’s resolve to confront any threat to national unity, academics say

Scholars agree that the president sent a firm message about the city’s pro-independence movement even though he did not directly mention it in his report

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 October, 2017, 10:12pm

President Xi Jinping’s reference to Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong shows the central leadership is determined to curb any threat against national unity in the city, according to academics and pro-establishment lawmakers.

In Xi’s report on Wednesday, he did not explicitly warn against the pro-independence sentiment in Hong Kong. But the president said Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the two cities’ high degree of autonomy must be “combined in an organic manner”.

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Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Xi was reminding Hong Kong people that when they remember the city’s semi-autonomous powers, such as the power to maintain an independent judiciary, they must also bear in mind that Beijing is not “completely hands-off”.

“For example, it has the power on the cities’ defence, foreign affairs … as well as the power to assess legislations reported by the Legislative Council,” Lau said.

“He’s saying Hong Kong’s power comes from the central government, Hong Kong and Beijing must work together to uphold ‘one country, two systems’ … and fulfil their responsibility in safeguarding national sovereignty and security.”

Xi did not touch on any pro-independence sentiment in Hong Kong, but said Beijing would not allow anyone to “separate any part of the Chinese territory from China”.

Lau said he was not surprised that Xi refrained from directly mentioning Hong Kong’s pro-independence movement because his speech on Wednesday was a blueprint for an entire nation.

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Tian Feilong, a Basic Law specialist at Beijing’s Beihang University, said the mention of “comprehensive jurisdiction” already showed Beijing’s response to the rise of Hong Kong independence and the Occupy movement.

“It is the Communist Party’s internal institutionalisation of how to deliver ‘one country’,” Tian said.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, said Xi’s repeated mention of “comprehensive jurisdiction” showed Beijing is concerned that the city could see more unrest, and the local government should take heed.

“Provided that Hong Kong is able to keep the separatist sentiments at bay and help our young people understand that we are an integral part of the country, and there is no future in Hong Kong independence whatsoever, I see no reason why the central government would tighten up its control over Hong Kong,” Ip said.

She said the central government would continue to support the development of democracy in Hong Kong as long as it followed the Basic Law and fulfilled its constitutional duties.

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Pan-democrat lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, leader of the Civic Party, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should communicate Hong Kong’s desire for democracy to the central government if she wanted to embrace the high level of autonomy Xi mentioned in his speech.

“Genuine stability and prosperity in Hong Kong will do only good for China, for which political reform is most fundamental,” said Yeung.

Yeung also said many deeply rooted problems in Hong Kong, including the separatist movement, would be solved if Beijing truly respects the “one country, two systems” and the high degree of autonomy promised therein.