Zhang Dejiang

Chinese vice-president urges Hong Kong civil servants to stay mindful, delegation head in Beijing says

No specifics given after high-level meeting, but ‘one country, two systems’ principle described as foundation for progress

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 7:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 10:58pm

The country’s vice-president has called on Hong Kong’s civil servants to be mindful of the “overall situation” in the city and stay committed to their duties, a senior local official leading a delegation in Beijing said.

Secretary for Civil Service Clement Cheung Wan-ching, leading an 11-member delegation of senior local officials in the capital as part of a “national studies” trip, made the remarks after a 45-minute meeting with Li Yuanchao in the Great Hall of the People on Tuesday.

Cheung said Li spoke highly of the civil servants’ work and expressed trust in them, highlighting the need for developing their awareness of the “overall situation”in the city when performing their duties, staying “committed” in their work, and exhibiting “team spirit”.

“Li hoped we would be united and do our best to help the government and the chief executive to run Hong Kong effectively,” he said. “He also appreciated the difficulty civil servants faced when pushing for some policies.”

Cheung added that Li also expressed concerns about how Hong Kong could find a way forward for the city’s long-term sustainable growth under the framework of the country’s development.

There were exchanges of views about recent situations in Hong Kong
Clement Cheung on meeting Li Yuanchao

The delegation head declined, however, to say whether Li touched on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s possible pursuit of another term in office.

“We exchanged views on many various topics,” Cheung said. “Some of our colleagues also briefed Li on the work of their respective policy areas … There were exchanges of views about recent situations in Hong Kong.”

Analysts warned against “overinterpreting” Li’s remarks and believed the vice-president had only meant to show support to civil servants.

Former civil service secretary Joseph Wong Wing-ping, who headed the civil service between 2000 and 2006, said: “Similar remarks had been raised before since my time.”

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official mainland think-tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, also said it was unlikely the chief executive election would be discussed with civil servants on what was a courtesy call.

Earlier reports said the delegation would be received by Politburo Standing Committee member and National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang. Such a meeting would make Zhang the highest-ranking mainland official to receive a delegation of its kind from Hong Kong.

Li, a top ally of former president Hu Jintao, is a member of the Politburo, akin to a cabinet to the Communist Party. Li is also one of Beijing’s top officials in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

Hong Kong civil servants are important to implement ‘one country, two system’ and the Basic Law
Li Yuanchao, vice-president and Politburo member

Earlier, Li told the delegation: “Hong Kong civil servants are important to implement ‘one country, two system’ and the Basic Law.”

He added that their achievement was “universally recognised” and he also endorsed the work of the chief executive. Under Leung’s leadership, the vice-president said, the Hong Kong government was “actively mapping out policies, developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood”.

He added that the city’s policies on land development, housing, pension and poverty relief were “very effective”.

The delegation was expected to travel next to Chongqing to see its development and explore closer cooperation between Hong Kong and the municipality. They were expected to return to Hong Kong on Saturday.

The visit was the third of its kind by a delegation of senior Hong Kong officials since 2010. In 2010, then-civil service minister Denise Yue Chung-yee led a delegation of permanent secretaries to Beijing and Shanghai. The delegation was received by former state councillor Liu Yandong, now a vice-premier.

In the 2013 visit, Li also received the delegation headed by then civil service minister Paul Tang Kwok-wai.

After 1999, the city’s Civil Service Bureau commissioned the Chinese Academy of Governance to organise national studies programmes, which aim to deepen participants’ understanding of policies and developments on the mainland as well as enhance networking.