Beijing to take a more active role in Hong Kong's affairs, hints Xi Jinping
President tells tycoons 'one country, two systems' will stay, but highlights central government leadership role and need to tailor 'one man, one vote'
President Xi Jinping has reiterated that the central government's policies towards Hong Kong will remain unchanged but hinted that Beijing would play a more active role in the city's affairs.
Speaking to a delegation of senior figures from the city's business and professional sectors, Xi said the implementation of "one man, one vote" in Hong Kong must be tailored to the specific situation of the country and the city.
Xi also vowed to support the Hong Kong government in the face of any activities that destroy social order, an implicit reference to the upcoming Occupy Central protest.
Xi said Beijing's policies towards Hong Kong had not changed and would not change. "We shall firmly adhere to the 'one country, two systems' [principle] and the Basic Law. [We shall] firmly push ahead with Hong Kong's democratic development, and maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability."
But he also highlighted the role Beijing should play. "I sincerely hope that Hong Kong, under the leadership of the central government and under the stewardship of the chief executive, can continue to advance and create a better future."
The city's richest man, Li Ka-shing, who stood next to the president in the photo session, told Xi that he hoped to see Hong Kong move towards universal suffrage, according to one person present at the meeting.
The delegation, which comprises more than 70 of the city's elite and Beijing loyalists from the commercial, industrial and professional sectors, was led by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who is now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The reception was marked by the presence of Zhang Dejiang , chairman of the National People's Congress who oversees Hong Kong affairs, and Vice-President Li Yuanchao .
Sitting next to Xi during the meeting at the Great Hall of the People was Tung. Among those on the front row were Li; Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land Development; Robert Kuok of Kerry Group; New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun; and Peter Woo Kwong-ching of Wharf Holdings.
The meeting lasted for an hour and 40 minutes. While Xi vowed that the central government would adhere to the "one country, two systems" principle and the Basic Law, he did not use the phrases "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" or "high degree of autonomy" in his opening remarks or in the official notes presented to the delegates, as former president Hu Jintao had done when he hosted the city's tycoons in 2003.
However, Louis Shih Tai-cho, one of the delegates, said Xi did mention "high degree of autonomy" at another stage of the meeting, while saying it had to be in line with national sovereignty.
Later in the meeting, Xi described Hong Kong as a "local administrative region that comes directly under the central people's government". The wording is almost identical to Article 12 of the Basic Law, except that the latter also uses the phrase "high degree of autonomy".
"As the president, Mr Xi would craft his speech very carefully. The omission would not be accidental," Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing feared Xi's omission of the catchphrase "Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong" signalled Beijing was not paying as much attention to the principles as it had previously.
But Professor Lau Siu-kai, now vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, dismissed such fears. "There is no need to be oversensitive. Mr Xi has said there is no change in policy and we should take his word for it," he said.
Wharf Holdings chairman Peter Woo said he felt "encouraged" that Xi had stressed that the "one country, two systems" concept would remain intact.
List of tycoons and business professionals going to Beijing
Cheung Kong (Holdings) chairman Li Ka-shing
Chairman of Kerry Group, Robert Kuok
Chief executive officer of Shangri-La Asia, Kuok Khoon Chen
PCCW chairman and younger son of Li Ka-shing, Richard Li Tzar-kai
K Wah Group chairman and Galaxy Entertainment Group founder Lui Che-woo
Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee and his elder son Peter Lee Ka-kit
Sun Hung Kai Properties Alternate Director Adam Kwok Kai-fai
Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po
New World Development chairman Henry Cheng Kar-shun
CLP Holdings chairman Michael Kadoorie
Sino Land chairman Robert Ng Chee Siong
Harilela Group vice-chairman Gary Harilela
Hang Lung Properties chairman Ronnie Chan Chichung
Shui On Land chairman Vincent Lo Hong-sui
MGM China's co-chairman and daughter of casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun, Pansy Ho Chiu-king
Ian Fok Chun-wan, son of the late Henry Fok Ying-tung
Wharf (Holdings) chairman Peter Woo Kwong-ching
Asia Financial Holdings chairman Robin Chan Yau-hing
Li & Fung honorary chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king
Lai Sun Development chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok,
Oriental Press Group former chairman Ma Ching-kwan
Glorious Sun Enterprises chairman Yeung Chun-kam
Phoenix Satellite Television chairman Liu Changle
Swire Pacific director Ian Shiu Sai-cheung
Shimao Property Holdings founder and chairman Hui Wing-mau
China Grand Forestry Resources Group founder Ng Leung-ho
Goldlion Holdings deputy chairman Ricky Tsang Chi-ming
Novel Enterprises vice-chairman Ronald Chao Kee-young
HKR International managing director Victor Cha Mou-zing
Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation chief executive officer Peter Wong Tung-shun
Prof Anna Pao Sohmen, daughter of late tycoon Pao Yue-kong
Far East Consortium International chairman David Chiu Tat-cheong
Shun Hing Group vice-chairman David Mong Tak-yeung
Galaxy Entertainment Group deputy chairman Francis Lui Yiu-tung
Dah Sing Life Assurance Company chairman David Wong Shou-yeh
Far East Holdings International chairman Deacon Chiu’s son, Duncan Chiu
Bank of China International Holdings deputy chief executive officer Tse Yung-hoi
Sing Tao News Corporation chairman Charles Ho Tsu-kwok
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
Henry Tang Ying-yen
Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen
Stephen Tai Tak-fung
Annie Wu Suk-ching
Anthony Wu Ting-yuk
Samuel Yung Wing-ki
Chang Yung-tsung (former CPPCC member)
Pang Yiu-kai, chairman of Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce
Stewart Leung Chi-kin, chairman of executive committee, Real Estate Developers Association
Jose Yu Sun-say, standing committee member of Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
Lawrence Ma Chung-lai, standing committee member of Chinese General Chamber of Commerce
Iron Sze, president of Chinese Manufacturers’ Association
Stanley Lau Chin-ho, chairman of Federation of Hong Kong Industries
Chong Shing-hum, president of Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ and Exporters’ Association
Professionals and others
Kaizer Lau Ping-cheung, surveyor; campaigner for Leung Chun-ying in chief executive election
Law Society former president Ambrose Lam San-keung
Lawyer and DAB Wong Tai Sin District Councillor Maggie Chan Man-ki
Chairman of Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers Wong Kwan-yu
PricewaterhouseCoopers Partner Dennis Ho Chiu-ping
Medical Council President Dr Louis Shih Tai-cho
Engineer Yim Kin-ping
Architect and former lawmaker Patrick Lau Sau-sing
Institute of Surveyors former president Stephen Lai Yuk-fai
Executive Councillor Cheung Chi-kong