Will Xi Jinping’s report at Communist Party congress hold new message for Hong Kong?

Document could indicate where city stands in country’s overall development

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 1:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 10:20pm

It’s a busy October.

On Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will roll out her policy blueprint for the city’s future under her term.

A week after that, more than 2,300 Communist Party delegates from all over the country, including Hong Kong, will gather in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to decide the future direction the nation will take under President Xi Jinping’s second term.

Wait a minute; under “one country, two systems”, the Communist Party does not officially or openly function in Hong Kong – an agreement between China and Britain reached during the handover negotiations.

Guess who’s not invited to China’s key Communist Party congress

However, with Beijing’s liaison office in the picture and many mainland companies investing in the local market, party officials are being sent to work in the city who must follow the Basic Law, the Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

That explains why both former liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming and his successor, Wang Zhimin, are delegates to this congress. Others include senior officials and executives from the office and major Hong Kong-based state-owned enterprises.

As a matter of fact, Zhang is an alternative member of the powerful Central Committee of the Communist Party, while Wang is not yet in. Whether Zhang will be promoted to full membership and Wang can make his way in this time is worth watching.

Meanwhile, a careful look at how the ruling party lines are to be translated into government policies, including those for Hong Kong, can be quite telling.

History can always be a mirror. Usually, the “political report” delivered by the party chief in this five-yearly national congress is one of the most important party documents.

At the 18th Party Congress in 2012, the concept of implementing “one country, two systems” in a “comprehensive and accurate” way was officially introduced in the political report from Hu Jintao, Xi’s predecessor. Sources familiar with the report later revealed that the Hong Kong part was drafted mainly by Zhang, who, at the time, was still with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.

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To show what this “comprehensive and accurate” concept was about, the State Council later released its first white paper on post-1997 Hong Kong, which stirred up plenty of controversy in the city, as Beijing insisted that “one country” would always have to come first before “two systems” could survive.

Now Xi has established his status as the “core” of the leadership. When he delivers his first political report next Wednesday, will there be a new message for Hong Kong?

Let’s wait and see; Hong Kong may not be Xi’s top priority, since he has too many pressing domestic and international issues on his plate. But what is good or bad about Hong Kong will not be without significance for Xi.

Watch: So what’s China’s Communist Party Congress all about?

Understandably, all eyes are on the leadership reshuffle to be finalised soon. But this congress is about more than just who will be in and who will be out among the party’s top echelons.

One key phrase for Xi now and in the years to come is the “Chinese dream” – a term that may seem abstract to some Hongkongers but sets a real goal for the president and the party he leads.

Xi once put it as “to make China a powerful nation” with “self confidence” in its own system, culture and way forward.

Politically and economically, where Hong Kong stands in the country’s overall development under Xi’s new governance will be clearer from his first political report. But it also depends on efforts by Lam and her administration, to be demonstrated in her policy address, including how to nurture mutually respectful and beneficial cross-border relations.