Jobs, school places and housing funds for Hongkongers among ‘goodies’ declared after Carrie Lam’s meeting with Xi Jinping
China’s President praised Hong Kong’s leader for ‘a good start’ and ‘fostering stability’ while stressing Beijing’s ‘comprehensive jurisdiction’ over the city
Hongkongers stand to benefit from landmark schemes such as access to jobs and school places and housing funds on the mainland, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor revealed on Friday as she wrapped up her maiden duty visit to Beijing.
Hours after she met President Xi Jinping who praised her for having a “good start” to her first five and half months in office and “fostering stability” in the city, Lam announced the slew of goodies she secured from mainland authorities.
She told the media that they had agreed to allow Hong Kong students graduating from mainland universities find jobs with a certificate, allow more Hong Kong children to study in public schools and enable Hongkongers working on the mainland to contribute to a fund to help them to own property.
In her meeting with Xi, Lam was also advised to continue working to unite Hongkongers, as the president stressed Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the city.
During her wrap-up interview with the media, Lam was asked if she discussed the enactment of the national security legislation, Article 23 of the Basic Law, with Xi and if she had been told to press on with it.
“The length of my duty visit is short, and so we did not discuss individual matters. But it is Hong Kong’s constitutional responsibility to enact Article 23 through local legislation...But because this is very controversial, we need to do it when the environment is suitable.
“The state leaders know my stance,” Lam said.
Commentators said while Xi stopped short of highlighting the need for Hong Kong to enact the law to prohibit treason, sedition and subversion, Beijing still considered it a priority for Lam’s administration.
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Lam said during her three-day duty visit, various mainland officials had committed to at least three new initiatives for Hong Kong people.
First, the education ministry agreed to issue certificates from next summer to Hong Kong students who want to stay on the mainland to work after graduating from universities there.
The second new policy is to allow children born in Hong Kong and Macau to get free public school education on the mainland, and the third, for Hongkongers working on the mainland to contribute to a home ownership fund.
Beijing authorities would announce the policy next week, with employers having to match the amounts contributed by employees, allowing them to enjoy lower interest rates if they bought a home.
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung said this was good news.
“Students studying in the mainland are more familiar with the society and systems across the border … The certificate, for example, will help their career development,” Kwok said.
Lam on Friday first met Premier Li Keqiang, with China’s No 2 official hailing her for taking a “proactive” approach to governance.
In her meeting with Xi in the afternoon, he gave her his stamp of approval, saying the central government “fully affirms” her administration’s work.
“I am glad to see that, since you have become the chief executive, you have led your team to carry out your work in accordance with the law, and have been proactive in your job.
“You have focused on growing the economy and made improvements in people’s lives,” Xi said in his opening remarks at their meeting, when journalists were allowed to be present.
“You have introduced a series of policies already, and have strengthened communications with people from different sectors. You have fostered society’s stability.
“You have had a good start and have been widely recognised by different sectors of society,” Xi said, adding that he hoped Lam would unite all Hongkongers to “seize opportunities and seek development” together.
But Lam’s visit to Beijing came at a time when her public approval rating dropped to 55.7 points out of 100, the lowest since she became the city’s leader in July, according to the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme.
And Professor Lau Siu-kai, from a Beijing-affiliated think-tank, in his analysis of the meeting, said Xi’s remarks showed Beijing had “yet to reach a conclusion” on whether Lam and her administration were doing a good job.
“The phrase ‘having a good start’ only means Beijing is basically satisfied with the current situation in Hong Kong … as the government has been trying hard,” Lau said, adding that Xi had listed other “requirements” for Hong Kong in his speech at the Communist Party’s 19th congress in October.
Xi also praised Lam for leading her team of senior officials to attend a talk on Xi’s party congress report.
“You led the Hong Kong government’s leadership in immediately learning about the spirit of the congress … That is good.”
He was referring to a seminar last month for 240 Hong Kong officials that featured speeches by senior party theoretician Leng Rong, and the head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, Wang Zhimin.
In response, Lam thanked Xi for making a three-day visit to Hong Kong for her swearing-in and celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997 on July 1.
“At that time, you said the three goals of your visit was to bless, show support and plan for the future [of Hong Kong], this created a very favourable prerequisite to foster my government’s relationship with the central government,” she said.
“Hong Kong people were also deeply impressed by your remarks that Hong Kong has always been your heart.”
She also thanked him for sending mainland officials to the seminar last month.
Also there on Friday afternoon in Beijing were Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress; State Councillor Yang Jiechi; Sun Chunlan, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo who is tipped to be promoted as vice-premier next year; Xi’s new chief of staff Ding Xuexiang, as well as You Quan, who recently succeeded Sun to head the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, which deals with relations with non-party groups at home and abroad, including in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Zhang Xiaoming, head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Wang Zhimin, head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong; and Eric Chan Kwok-ki, director of Lam’s office also attended the meeting.
Phila Siu is reporting from Beijing