Beijing is not tightening its grip on Hong Kong but needs to “say out loud” it has overall jurisdiction because of the constant noise from those who want to separate the city from China, a former senior official says. Xu Ze, former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, spoke at a forum on Friday just hours after the United States said it was disappointed by the convictions of nine leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests and warned that “continued erosion” of the “one country, two systems” governing formula would risk the city’s special international status. The US Department of State, in a statement released on Friday morning, also said it was closely monitoring a proposed amendment to the city’s fugitive law that would allow for the extradition of suspects to both mainland China and Taiwan on a case-by-case basis. Xu, speaking at a forum on the implementation and achievements of one country, two systems, said Beijing was not trying to strip away any power from Hong Kong when it emphasised China’s constitution applied to the city. “Some people said it was Beijing attempting to resume Hong Kong’s power. This is not true because we settled everything years ago,” Xu, president of semi-official think tank The Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, told the forum at the convention centre in Wan Chai. He said the Basic Law Consultative Committee had reached a consensus that China’s constitution should be fully applicable in Hong Kong. The opinion was submitted to and later approved by the Basic Law Drafting Committee. ‘One country, two systems’ is key to a prosperous future, former official says In light of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, Beijing formed the two committees in 1985 and spent 56 months on drafting the Basic Law. The Basic Law maintains that it and the special administrative region were established in accordance with the constitution, but it does not provide that the constitution is directly applicable in the city. It also stipulates that national laws in China should not be applied in Hong Kong unless they are introduced into Annex III of the Basic Law. “This problem has long been cleared,” Xu insisted. “But after the handover, some noises constantly emerged in Hong Kong, which essentially advocated the city’s separation from China and the Basic Law’s separation from the constitution.” Beijing was simply laying out the logic of the Basic Law, Xu added. “All the power [the central government] needs to authorise has been authorised, and there is no power that [Beijing] wants to resume,” he said. No one wants to be overtly assertive. But some people just couldn’t get it no matter how many times we explained Xu Ze, ex-deputy director of Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office “No one wants to be overtly assertive. But some people just couldn’t get it no matter how many times we explained. So eventually we had to say it out loud.” At the same forum, former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said the success of one country, two system should be judged by how well the Basic Law had been implemented, instead of “subjective criteria and personal interpretations”. Maria Tam Wai-chu, a member of the Basic Law Committee under China’s top lawmaking body, said she deliberately blocked the introduction of direct elections for the Legislative Council in 1988 to “protect Hong Kong from being shocked” by fully fledged democracy. Japan keen on Greater Bay Area but says ‘one country, two systems’ vital “I knew the British were trying to return power to the people and Hong Kong might have to see rotations of ruling parties if they succeeded. I hoped by blocking the direct election in 1988, we would win time to build national identity,” she said. Tam also said Hong Kong had to defend China’s interests. “People on the mainland worked hard over the past decades to allow Hong Kong to enjoy its economic status. So we must defend the national interests,” Tam said.