Xi Jinping

Briefing lined up for senior Hong Kong officials on Xi Jinping’s Communist Party congress report

Beijing delegation invited to Hong Kong to give talk on president’s ideas

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 1:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 10:19pm

The Hong Kong government has invited a mainland delegation to brief its senior officials on President Xi Jinping’s report to the Communist Party congress last month, the city’s leader confirmed on Tuesday.

The delegation, tasked by Beijing with promoting the messages of China’s ruling party after its twice-a-decade congress, is set to explain Xi’s report to Hong Kong’s top decision makers this week, according to local media reports.

The mainland group will be led by Leng Rong, head of the party’s literature research office and a member of its Central Committee, the largest of the party’s elite ruling bodies.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday confirmed that Leng would be coming to give a talk this week – a move local lawmakers said was unusual.

But Lam said the event was not without precedent: “In the last few years, the government has organised a lot of similar talks on topics such as the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, the Chinese premier’s work reports, and technological advancements,” she said.

Hong Kong ministers and civil servants will be briefed on the country’s latest policies and developments.

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“The 19th party congress report … mentioned that the central government would support Hong Kong in integrating with the nation’s development strategies … It will help our officials in policymaking if they have a better understanding of the report,” Lam said.

“This particular congress report is of utmost importance for our country’s development, so it is only proper and legitimate for public servants to learn more about this subject, and that’s why we have asked, as in previous practice, the central authorities to nominate the relevant official to come to Hong Kong to do a seminar for us.”

Long-standing convention has seen Beijing send a delegation around the country after every party congress to spread its key messages, but commentators believed this was the first time it had included Hong Kong on the itinerary.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, who headed the Hong Kong government’s Central Policy Unit, a think tank, from 2002 to 2012, said a speaker from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences came to the city in 2007 to brief officials on the outcome of the 17th congress.

“Xi’s report was a document for the party, and the speaker this time can give a more authoritative explanation. It will be a good learning opportunity for those attending,” Lau said.

Former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping, who retired from the government in 2007, said: “I don’t know if this is unprecedented. But the 19th party congress report is a landmark document for the country, and civil servants should be learning about important national policies.”

But Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, Hong Kong’s biggest opposition party, questioned if the briefing was necessary.

“This kind of talk is just one-way traffic … and it will only offer a superficial understanding of the report, similar to reading pro-Beijing newspapers such as Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao,” Wu said.

Fellow Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the seminar was unusual.

“It seems that Beijing is trying to make us adopt its rather strange culture and practices,” To said, in reference to classes held on the mainland for Communist Party cadres to learn from Xi’s speeches.

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“Hong Kong is governed under ‘one country, two systems’ … While it is okay to know more about the China dream and the country’s development, it could be dangerous if these ideas are affecting the city’s governance and our senior officials’ policymaking.”

Separately on Tuesday, Lam also revealed that, starting from January, she would be holding a monthly 30-minute session at the city’s legislature to answer lawmakers’ questions, on top of the four existing 90-minute sessions she attends for the same purpose every year.