Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong tells foreign envoys to respect China’s sovereignty

The head of the foreign ministry office briefs consulate officials on the ‘spirit’ of the 19th Communist Party congress

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 10:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 30 October, 2017, 11:58pm

Foreign countries must respect China’s sovereignty and understand Beijing’s strategy on Hong Kong in a “comprehensive and accurate manner”, the head of foreign ministry office in Hong Kong told diplomats on Monday.

Xie Feng briefed officials from 56 consulates in the city – more than 90 per cent of the total – after this month’s 19th Communist Party congress, where President Xi Jinping presented his blueprint for the path China would take over the next five years. The envoys were reportedly given direction on the “spirit” of the congress, which concluded last week.

Xie also said the “one country, two systems” policy was one of the basic strategies for China to develop socialism with Chinese characteristics.

“It was hoped the consulates in Hong Kong could understand the Chinese government’s new strategy toward Hong Kong in a comprehensive and accurate manner,” said a Chinese language press release posted on the foreign ministry commissioner’s office website on Monday.

“The hope is that the consulates observe international law, Chinese and Hong Kong laws, and respect China’s sovereignty, security and development interests.”

‘Challenging Chinese sovereignty crosses a red line’: Xi

Foreign criticism had been mounting over China’s handling of the city, including the jailing of student activists, and more recently, barring a top UK human rights advocate from entering the city this month.

During his report at the congress, Xi set the path for governing Hong Kong by proposing a melding of Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” as well as the city’s high degree of autonomy in “an organic manner”.

Observers said this revealed Beijing’s support of the one country, two systems model but also its determination to thwart any perceived threat to national unity in the city.

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 and has since been governed under the one country, two systems policy that promises the former British colony a higher degree of autonomy and freedom than on the mainland.

UK official stresses importance of Sino-British Joint Declaration

However, some critics viewed Xi’s use of the phrase “comprehensive jurisdiction” at the congress as a signal Beijing was tightening its grip over the city.

China’s top legislature was expected to discuss on Wednesdayextending to Hong Kong a mainland law that criminalises disrespecting the national anthem, March of the Volunteers, according to Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress.

A final vote to add a national anthem law clause in Annexe III of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, is expected on Saturday. If that passes, Hong Kong officials have said the law would be adapted through local legislation.

Hong Kong prepares for law against disrespect for national anthem

“If the resolution is passed, that means the Hong Kong government can no longer drag its feet and must, as soon as possible, make its own law to punish those showing disrespect to the national anthem,” said Ip, who is in Beijing sitting on at the standing committee meeting.

He dismissed concerns that the law could be abused to punish dissidents here, saying it was the obligation and responsibility of any Chinese national, including Hong Kong citizens, to protect the dignity of the national anthem.