Hong Kong usually does not feature prominently in the central government’s annual work report to the national parliament. But the message from the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee is unambiguous. We should continue to guard against separatism and move along the directions laid down for better growth and development of the city and nation as a whole. As usual, the brief references to Hong Kong have attracted much scrutiny and interpretation. While reiterating wording such as implementing the policies of “one country, two systems” “fully and faithfully”, and “the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy”, the report by Premier Li Keqiang no longer mentioned “separatist acts” and “promoting democracy”. Compared to the clear reference of “opposing and deterring separatist schemes or activities seeking Taiwan independence”, the omission inevitably raises eyebrows, with some wondering whether Hong Kong independence is no longer an issue of concern to Beijing. Li Keqiang declares China’s hold over Hong Kong is being strengthened Following the disqualification of lawmakers and the ban on the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, the political landscape has become relatively calmer. This was also acknowledged by Vice-Premier Han Zheng in a closed-door session with local delegates to the state legislature on Wednesday. The recent letter from the State Council asking the city chief for a report on the party ban was a demonstration of Beijing’s “zero tolerance” of separatism and support for the Hong Kong government’s action in this regard. As explained by Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Li’s emphasis on the need to accurately implement one country, two systems already contains the requirement to prohibit acts that jeopardise national security. So even though separatism was omitted in the report this time, Beijing’s firm stance on unity remains unchanged. The Hong Kong government is expected to toe the line, giving full regard to one country while acting in accordance with the law. It remains Beijing’s expectation that the city will focus on economic development, in particular seizing the opportunities arising from the “Belt and Road Initiative” – a state development strategy involving infrastructure and investment overseas – and the “Greater Bay Area” development, under which Hong Kong, Macau and nine other southern cities are to work together to turn the region into an economic powerhouse. This means Hong Kong’s future is tied closely to that of the country. It is as much an opportunity as it is an obligation for us to work together and contribute to the development of the city and country.