Everyone will have to ‘foot the bill’ if Hong Kong becomes chaotic, warns Zhang Dejiang
In speech to 300 representatives of the city, state leader reiterates Beijing’s commitment to Basic Law and one country, two systems
Visiting state leader Zhang Dejiang warned everyone would have to pay the price if Hong Kong became chaotic, in a 20-minute speech to more than 220 representatives from various sectors at the government headquarters this morning.
“We are all in the same boat. If Hong Kong does well, everyone would benefit. If Hong Kong becomes chaotic, everyone has to ‘mai dan’,” said Zhang, using the Cantonese term for footing the bill.
The state leader, who chairs the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, called on Hongkongers to support Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and his administration, stressing they were elected in accordance with the Basic Law and appointed by the central government.
Zhang said the effective functioning of the SAR government was important for the stability and economic development of the city, as well as the improvement of the people’s livelihood.
He stated that Hong Kong must focus on developing its economy, as that was the reason the city was well known. The state leader added that Hong Kong’s economic success was due to its access to the large mainland market.
Zhang reiterated that abiding by the one country, two systems principle and the Basic Law was the best way forward for the city while dismissing calls for self-determination and independence as unfeasible.
“In the interest of the country, in the interest of Hong Kong, particularly the fundamental interests of the 7.3 million residents in Hong Kong, we must stick to the one country, two systems principle, we must stick to the Basic Law,” the state leader said.
While Zhang was making the speech, Lau Nai-keung, a member of the influential Basic Law Committee, felt unwell and had to be attended to by medical personnel.
When asked about Zhang’s comments on the chief executive in his message on Thursday morning, Allan Zeman, former chairman of Ocean Park, said the state leader said only that Leung was doing a good job.
“It was not any kind of endorsement ... It’s kind of hinting [at] support and stability.”
Zeman added: “The meeting was really about One Belt, One Road, one country, two systems ... And that Hong Kong is strong economically. It was very encouraging."
“It was light hearted and people were laughing a lot.”
Tsang Hin-chi, a former deputy to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said: “Zhang acknowledged what Hong Kong has achieved, and said more cooperation is needed between the central government and different sectors in the city.
“He also hoped that Hong Kong ... can unite and work together for the city’s development.”
After the meeting, Zhang headed to East Kowloon to visit an elderly home complex in Tseung Kwan O and the newly completed On Tat Estate in Sau Mau Ping.
The road closure for Zhang’s fleet paralysed morning rush-hour traffic on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Motorists slowed to a halt as a major police operation to escort the senior official from Wan Chai to Tseung Kwan O commenced. Serious congestion spread from Central along the Eastern Corridor and across in Kowloon along the Kwun Tong Bypass.
Hong Kong Island resident Iain Morris captured pictures from a high vantage point of police halting traffic towards the Eastern Tunnel entrance as Zhang’s official motorcade passed by.
The state leader arrived at the HKSKH Tseung Kwan O Aged Care Complex at about 10.15am, accompanied by the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Director of Social Welfare Carol Yip Man-kuen and the chief executive.
Five minutes after his car entered the home, a large yellow banner was unfolded at a nearby building.
During the 25-minute visit, Zhang talked to several elderly people, including some receiving physiotherapy or playing chess, and an elderly woman who praised the home’s services in fluent Putonghua.
Li Yuet-chu, 74, a member of the centre who attends its tea-making course regularly, said she did not know Zhang and Leung were going to visit the home.
The class served the officials Tieguanyin tea from Fujian.
“They were very nice and asked about our health,” Li said.
There was a light-hearted moment when Zhang shared a cup of tea with Wang as the NPC chairman and Leung sat down and listened to staff members explaining the home’s services.
Before leaving, Zhang and Wang gave the home two gifts – an electric massager and a treadmill – while a representative of the staff gave the Beijing officials a paper handicraft made by elderly members.
Moving on, Zhang’s fleet arrived at On Tat Estate at 10.52am. All of On Tat Sang Road was blocked off by police officers.
The two media zones were located right opposite the elderly home and the public estate, about 20 metres away from where Zhang was visiting. All reporters went through a security check and had to stay within a designated area that had been cordoned off. Zhang remained inside his car the entire time and did not make an appearance. The motorcade left the estate at 11.26am.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said the top official’s three-day visit had been very meaningful, and had been very positively received by the general public.
He reiterated the state leader’s support for Leung as the chief executive and urged Hongkongers to focus on economic development to maintain the city’s status.
The meeting between the chairman of the national legislature and four pan-democratic lawmakers also reflected Beijing’s willingness to engage in rational communication with different sectors in Hong Kong, the liaison office director added.
Zhang Dejiang did not address or take any questions from the press at the airport before boarding his noon flight to Beijing.