Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing in December
Details of visit have not been officially announced, but government source reveals it has been scheduled for December 13 to 15
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will make her first duty visit to Beijing in December to meet President Xi Jinping and other state leaders, as residents in the city call for her to express their concerns about contentious political issues.
Details of the visit have not been officially announced, but a government source said it had been scheduled for December 13 to 15.
Based on previous practice, Lam could be received by President Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. The Hong Kong chief executive could also meet Li Zhanshu, who is tipped to be the next chairman of the National People’s Congress and to lead China’s policies on Hong Kong.
A spokesman for the Chief Executive’s Office would not confirm the dates and said: “A formal announcement will be made in due course.”
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said he hoped Lam would tell the state leaders about Hongkongers’ concerns over the implementation of a national security legislation and a controversial plan to let Chinese officers enforce mainland Chinese laws at the city’s West Kowloon express rail terminus.
“If Hong Kong is forced to follow the Beijing way of handling issues, it may affect Hong Kong-mainland relations,” Wu said.
Earlier this month, Beijing signalled its impatience at Hong Kong for making no progress in enacting Article 23 – which obliges Hong Kong to enact laws against treason, sedition and subversion – of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
Li Fei, who heads the Basic Law Committee under the NPC’s Standing Committee, said at the time the duty is “unavoidable”.
Dr Chung Kim-wah, director of Polytechnic University’s centre for social policy studies, expected the central government would make use of the opportunity to “inject more positive political energy” into Lam by showing support for her.
“Lam’s first duty visit as chief executive will probably be more like a courtesy call,” Chung said.
“There have been some brewing controversies in Hong Kong over Article 23 and co-location in the past few months. The central government fully understands the situation and I don’t think the state leaders want to give Lam a hard time by putting more pressure on her.”
According to the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme, Lam’s public approval rating in the first month since becoming the leader was 61.1 out of 100 points, dropping to 58.9 this month.
By comparison, her predecessor Leung Chun-ying’s rating was 52.5 in his first month as chief executive, increasing slightly to 52.6 by his fifth month.
Even with an approval rating better than her predecessor, Lam’s first five months as leader have not been all smooth.
Lam’s hopes to mend ties with the pan-democrats took a hit soon after she took office in July, when the court stripped four more pro-democracy lawmakers of their seats for improper oath-taking.
Ties worsened further, following the controversies on the high speed rail co-location arrangement, and the city government’s plan to enact anthem laws.
Under new legislation recently approved by the NPCSC, anyone who maliciously modifies the lyrics, or plays or sings the anthem in a distorted or disrespectful way in public can be detained for up to 15 days or imprisoned for three years under the mainland Chinese criminal code. An addition to Annexe 3 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law has set the stage for the city to implement its own version.
When Xi visited Hong Kong in July to swear in Lam, he warned the city not to cross the “red line” of undermining Chinese sovereignty, urging consensus instead of conflict to solve major problems.
He praised the city for its successes but also pointed out the strains it had been under, alluding to the political and social tumult of recent years that has spawned radical dissent and even advocacy of independence – to the consternation of Beijing.