Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong must uphold one country in order to maintain two systems

Beijing has made it clear that abuse of the city’s high degree of autonomy to infiltrate or sabotage the mainland will not be tolerated, and political elites have been told to actively defend the governing principle

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:28am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 March, 2018, 5:28am

The annual meetings of the national parliament and the consultative committee are justifiably top events in the political calendar of China. Against the backdrop of a new term for the two bodies and a controversial bid to extend the president’s tenure, media scrutiny has become even more intensive this year. From subtle rhetorical changes to minute protocol displays, every detail has been analysed to help make sense of what is in the pipeline for the city.

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Eyebrows were first raised when the Hong Kong and Macau delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference met Zhao Leji, the sixth-ranking member in the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee and head of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. The arrangement for the anti-corruption tsar to address delegates from the special administrative regions has been interpreted as a subtle warning against misbehaviour.

The days when political elites indulged in lavish banquets and business networking are long gone. They instead have been told to become more active in defending “one country, two systems”.

What came out of another meeting with Politburo Standing Committee member Wang Huning was equally significant. Deputies to the National People’s Congress were specifically told to observe five points. They included ensuring the implementation of one country, two systems is not distorted; and to comprehend Beijing’s full jurisdiction over Hong Kong. They are not exactly new directions. But the message is clear. Beijing is expected to continue asserting its authority over “one country” firmly. Abuse of the city’s high degree of autonomy to infiltrate or sabotage the mainland will not be tolerated.

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As in the past, the wordings of the work reports have aroused much speculation. This is not the first time references to “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” have not been mentioned in the NPC or the CPPCC reports. No reference was also made to those advocating Hong Kong independence, unlike last year.

There is perhaps no need to read too much into the wording. While it is true that independence sentiments are no longer as vocal as before, it does not mean Beijing will be caught off guard just because they are not mentioned again in a work report. Similarly, the lack of reference to the city’s governing principles does not mean it is no longer run by locals or losing its autonomy.

Until a clearer line-up on the new leadership has emerged, speculation over Beijing’s approach towards Hong Kong may well continue. What is certain is that the city will continue to be closely watched by Beijing. It is imperative that we uphold one country so that two systems will not be tightened.