China's leaders 'fear Hong Kong will be a base for subversion'

Academic at a top think tank says worry colours state leaders' thinking on city

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 December, 2014, 3:33am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 December, 2014, 9:32am

State leaders' fear that Hong Kong will become a "base for subversion" is driving their push for a stronger understanding of "one country, two systems", an academic at a Beijing-backed think tank says.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the central government believed many Hongkongers did not understand its policies and tended to focus only on the "two systems" side of the equation.

The think tank is led by Chen Zuoer, a former Hong Kong and Macau affairs official who has emerged as a key interpreter of Beijing's thoughts on the city.

Lau, a former head of the Hong Kong government's Central Policy Unit, cited President Xi Jinping's remarks on a visit to Macau this month, when he told residents there to "adhere both to the one-China principle and respect the differences of the two systems".

In a radio interview yesterday, Lau said Xi's comments were in fact aimed at Hong Kong. Beijing hoped Hongkongers would consider issues such as national security and the national interest more from a "one country" perspective. Not only did Beijing "care about the practice of the 'one country, two systems' policy in Hong Kong", it also "cannot rest assured" as "it is worried that Hong Kong will become a base for subversion".

Lau said Beijing's concerns were heightened by the "precarious international situation" and the tendency of some Hongkongers, including Occupy Central protesters, to challenge the central government's authority.

But he did not expect Beijing to strengthen cooperation with pro-establishment political groups in the city to counter the pro-democracy campaign. And he saw little room for compromise on reform as Beijing would never allow any candidate it did not trust to run when the public gets to vote for the chief executive in 2017. He fears a second round of consultation on political reform, due to start next month, will widen the gap between Beijing loyalists and pan-democrats.

Meanwhile, undersecretary for constitutional affairs Lau Kong-wah said yesterday that a report on public opinion would be submitted to Beijing next month. The report was promised in talks between officials and student protesters in October, and will not seek to overturn the framework Beijing set in August for the 2017 poll.