Macau meeting hints at new Hong Kong role for Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng
Officials travel to Beijing for training and to hear Han ‘fully endorse’ their work in government
Chinese vice-premier Han Zheng met a group of top Macau officials in Beijing on Tuesday – the strongest hint yet he has been appointed as the top state leader in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Addressing 10 officials from the city, Han, the seventh-ranking member on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, “fully endorsed” the work of the Macau government.
“You have been united in leading different sectors in Macau to achieve good results on various aspects,” he said at the Great Hall of the People.
“People’s livelihoods have been improving gradually, and different kinds of difficulties, and challenges, have been overcome.”
The delegation from Macau included Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi-fan, Prosecutor General Ip Son-sang, and the city’s financial, security and anti-graft chiefs.
They were in Beijing and Jiangsu province from Saturday to Wednesday for training sessions and visits concerning the national development topics.
Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on did not join the delegation.
Hong Kong and Macau were handed over to the Chinese from the British and the Portuguese in 1997 and 1999, respectively. Since then, the two special administrative regions have been governed by Beijing under the “one country, two systems” principle – which guarantees the cities a “high degree of autonomy”.
Last year, President Xi Jinping called for the melding of Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and Macau, with the two cities’ high degree of autonomy in a natural or “organic” way.
In a reference to Xi’s call, Han said: “Since Macau’s reunification, the central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction was effectively implemented, and the SAR’s high degree of autonomy was fully protected.
“Achievements made by the implementation of one country, two systems … have been recognised by the world.”
Han also said that under Chui’s leadership, Macau had been governed “in an active and stable manner, for the sake of the city’s long-term development”.
According to Han, in recent months Xi has announced “a series of new concepts, thoughts and strategies” regarding the one country, two systems principle, the cooperation between Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, as well as the two former colonies’ future development.
“These new thoughts greatly enriched the theories, strategies and policies of one country, two systems. I sincerely hope you all can further understand his thoughts,” the vice-premier added.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said the meeting showed it is “extremely likely” Han is now Beijing’s point man in the Politburo Standing Committee to oversee Hong Kong and Macau.
“The reports about it were not denied in the last few weeks … so it means he is the one,” Lau said.
The meeting with Han came a day after the delegation met Zhang Xiaoming, head of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.
Zhang praised Chui for arranging training sessions for the city’s officials, and urged them to further strengthen their national identity.
The Macau Asia Satellite Television station reported on Tuesday the training sessions were organised partly at “Beijing’s requirement” for the Hong Kong and Macau governments.
However, Lau said it was “not likely at this stage” Hong Kong would follow Macau’s footsteps in sending a large group of top officials to Beijing for training purposes.
“It could put [Chief Executive Carrie] Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in an embarrassing position, as people might question whether Beijing was trying to command her cabinet directly,” he said.