Hong Kong localism and independence

Beijing ‘unswerving’ on ‘one country, two systems’, new chief of Hong Kong affairs says; lashes out at independence advocates

Zhang Xiaoming says reshuffle of officials will not affect policy towards city, and that he ‘doesn’t care’ about criticism of his work in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 September, 2017, 1:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 September, 2017, 2:18pm

The new chief of Beijing’s office responsible for Hong Kong affairs has promised the central government’s “unswerving” implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy will not change, regardless of the latest reshuffle of top officials.

On his first day as director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office on Monday, Zhang Xiaoming advised people not to “easily associate a particular official’s change in position with whether the central government’s principle on Hong Kong is changing”.

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He also slammed advocates of independence for Hong Kong, describing them as “intolerable”.

Under the “one country, two systems” formula, Beijing has promised that Hong Kong’s capitalistic system and way of life will not change for at least 50 years since the city was transferred from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The relationship between the city and the rest of the country has come under strain in recent years amid growing anti-mainland sentiment.

Zhang, 54, formerly director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, replaced Wang Guangya, 67, last week at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.

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Zhang’s role in Hong Kong has been filled by Wang Zhimin, who previously headed Beijing’s liaison office in the former Portuguese enclave of Macau, which is also governed under “one country, two systems”.

During his tenure in Hong Kong, Zhang was praised by pro-establishment politicians in the city for his firm stance against Beijing’s critics, but opposition pan-democrats in the legislature saw him as a hardliner “fuelling conflict in Hong Kong with his criticism” of democracy activists.

Zhang said in Beijing on Monday that he was not concerned by public criticism of his work.

“I have noticed Hong Kong society’s praise and criticism of me,” he said. “But I do not care ... what I did was right and complied with Beijing’s principles and policies on Hong Kong.

“There were two interpretations of my so-called hardline approach ... But the key for me was to do what was right.”

On the idea of Hong Kong independence, he was unequivocal.

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“What is ‘Hong Kong independence’? It contravenes the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and ordinances, and could be criminal,” he said. “It is a calamity for Hong Kong ... all Hongkongers should see this clearly and must not tolerate it.”

Zhang said there had been no change on Beijing’s approach to “one country, two systems”.

The central government is unswerving on implementing ‘one country, two systems’
Zhang Xiaoming

“My understanding is that since the central government laid down its policy and principle on Hong Kong, that policy and principle have never changed. The central government is unswerving on implementing ‘one country, two systems’,” he said.

Wang Zhimin echoed that view as he answered questions outside his office in Hong Kong on Monday.

“This personnel reshuffle was only normal. You all know that Zhang is becoming the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office,” he said. “Please rest assured that our goals are the same, and our principle is the principle of ‘one country, two systems’.”

Wang said he was looking forward to “cooperating with and supporting Hong Kong’s chief executive and the government in governing the city in accordance with the Basic Law”, the city’s mini-constitution.

Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing called on the new liaison office chief to foster better communication with the pan-democrats and even young radicals. He said such engagement would help ensure the successful implementation of “one country, two systems”.

Meanwhile, state broadcaster CCTV reported that President Xi Jinping had visited an exhibition in Beijing on Monday afternoon showcasing the Communist Party’s achievements since its last party congress five years ago. He was joined by the other six Politburo Standing Committee members.

The exhibits included multimedia displays, machines and models of various technological, military and infrastructure projects, such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

Zhang accompanied Xi at the exhibition and explained to him details of the bridge.

Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam