How can Carrie Lam accomplish her new mission of pushing Hongkongers to learn more about China’s Communist Party?

It’s crystal clear that state leaders want Hong Kong to better understand the nation’s ruling party, but that could be an uphill task for the city’s chief executive given the mixed feelings held by many residents towards its history

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 5:23pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 December, 2017, 9:46pm

Not many people watch television nowadays, understandably – especially not state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) here in Hong Kong.

So it was no surprise that many missed a particularly significant detail of the first duty visit to Beijing by Hong Kong’s leader: when she met President Xi Jinping, she had with her a thick, written report on her work since taking office on July 1.

In CCTV’s main newscast at 7pm on Friday, a close-up shot revealed the document’s blue cover featuring Hong Kong’s official bauhinia emblem and the title “Duty Visit Report of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, People’s Republic of China”. It was seen in front of Xi during the state broadcast, but local television crews apparently did not have time to capture this detail during the few minutes they were allowed in for a photo-call.

It may or may not have been the first time for the presentation of such a formal report, but there was no mistaking the significance of displaying it on television to a national audience. The fact is, taking the duty visits of the leaders of both Hong Kong and Macau a step beyond the usual courtesy calls to make them more work-oriented is a practice that started during the time of Lam’s predecessor, Leung Chun-ying – or, to be more precise, during Xi’s first term.

Now this formality is on display for mainlanders as well.

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It could mean that an official mechanism has been set for the central government to assess the performances of the leaders of the country’s two special administrative regions and to provide working guidelines for them.

While the powerful Central Organisation Department of the Chinese Communist Party decides appointments, promotions, demotions or punishments for officials at all levels with a comprehensive internal appraisal and disciplinary system on the mainland, under “one country, two systems” the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau are not judged in that way.

Instead, they are the only two local leaders to be subject to the very special annual duty visit arrangement to meet state leaders, with state media providing coverage.

However, in a sense, a duty visit can also be seen as a “final exam”. And for Beijing to better assess Lam’s work, submitting a work report is not enough. That is why we saw Lam first hold a two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Zhang Xiaoming, head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, together with all three of his deputies, on many substantial issues regarding the city, before Xi and Premier Li Keqiang received her.

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An important message that many did not miss this time was Xi’s praise for Lam for doing a good job in inviting party theorists to Hong Kong recently to further elaborate to her administration on the president’s political report delivered at the 19th party congress.

Accept it or not, it’s crystal clear that Beijing wants Hong Kong to better understand not just the country’s economic development, but also the ruling Communist Party which decides the nation’s future direction.

There is a long-held sentiment in this city that one does not have to love the party to be a patriot, since we follow a capitalist system here. The late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, also made it clear as early as the 1980s that Hongkongers could continue to criticise the party after 1997, but should love the country and sincerely support the return of the city’s sovereignty to the motherland.

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The Communist Party has made mistakes now and then for various reasons, and Hongkongers have very mixed feelings towards it, but to learn more about it is a different matter.

So, with Xi’s encouragement, is Lam expected to enhance Hongkongers’ understanding of the biggest party in the world?