Carrie Lam

Xi ‘sent a reminder’ to Hong Kong over Beijing’s hard line on city

Lau Siu-kai says mainland officials want to remind city residents that their semi-autonomy is dependent on respect for Communist Party rule

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 December, 2017, 6:21pm

Xi Jinping’s praise for Hong Kong’s leader learning about the Communist Party congress report was to remind residents of his hardline principles on the city and that its semi-autonomy is contingent on respect for the party, a leading Beijing adviser on Hong Kong affairs said on Saturday.

Lau Siu-kai noted that mainland officials had recently grown less restrained in asserting the party’s authority over the city.

The analysis of Lau, vice-chairman of The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, came a day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met the Chinese president on her first duty visit to Beijing on Friday.

In his brief opening speech in front of reporters, Xi praised Lam for leading her team of senior officials to attend a talk on the Communist Party’s 19th congress report. He also praised Lam for “a good start” and “fostering stability”.

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Xi was referring to a seminar last month for 240 Hong Kong officials that featured a speech by senior party theoretician Leng Rong, in which Leng explained the report that Xi gave to the party’s twice-a-decade congress.

“[Xi’s remarks were] to remind the government to fully understand the Chinese Communist Party’s governing principle towards Hong Kong,” Lau told a radio programme on Saturday morning.

One of the key tenets of the attitude towards Hong Kong mentioned in Xi’s speech was Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over the city.

And Lau said Beijing’s representatives were becoming more assertive while talking of that jurisdiction.

“The phrase ‘Chinese Communist Party’ is no longer taboo in these two years,” Lau said, adding that mainland officials instead had talked more deliberately, reminding Hongkongers that “If you want ‘one country, two systems’ to be implemented and continued successfully, you can’t disrespect the Chinese Communist Party”.

One country, two systems is the principle under which Beijing has governed Hong Kong since the city returned from British to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Under it, Hongkongers get certain rights and freedoms not enjoyed in mainland China.

Earlier this month, the legal head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong told city residents not to reject the party’s leadership, as such a stance is against the country’s constitution.

Chants of “end one-party rule” are often heard at the city’s annual candlelight vigil to commemorate 1989’s Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Since the early days of her election campaign Lam has said she intends to “mend rifts in society”.

Lau said on Saturday that the pan-democrats in the Legislative Council would not turn more radical, for fear of losing public support, though they had vowed to “pay back hundredfold” in the aftermath of the rule book controversy. On Friday, Legco passed 24 amendments to its own rule book. The changes, proposed by the pro-establishment bloc to curb filibustering, drew the ire of the pro-democracy camp, which said it would stop it from being an effective check on the government.

Lam said on Saturday it was understandable for the pro-government bloc to raise the amendments to address some residents’ calls to curb filibustering, and that she hoped Legco would go back to being a more “rational and peaceful” place after the controversy.