It may be just a historical coincidence that the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and succession of its government are in the same year as the Communist Party of China holding its 19th National Congress, but this year General Secretary Xi Jinping talked about the recently concluded 19th National Congress of the CPC at his meeting with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, leader of the fifth-term HKSAR Government, in Beijing last week during her duty visit in the nation’s capital. It is the first time the top leader of the ruling party and head of State spoke to Hong Kong’s CE specifically about the Party congress.
Xi told Lam the congress gave the Hong Kong and Macao SARs important guidance over implementing the “one country, two systems” principle. He is the first Party leader and head of State to do so since the HKSAR was founded on July 1, 1997. Lam is also the first CE in the past 20 years to have promised the top leader of the central government that she and the SAR government would study and appreciate the spirit of the 19th National Congress so as to better lead the HKSAR in integrating into the overall development of the nation. That change is also historic but meant to be, instead of a coincidence.
Xinhua News Agency reported last Friday that Xi had told Lam: “After the 19th National Congress of the CPC, the CE led the executive branch of the SAR government in studying, understanding and appreciating the spirit of the CPC National Congress as well as inviting experts from the central government to introduce and explain the relevant documents of the 19th National Congress of the CPC to HKSAR civil servants and members of the public. All those arrangements were well done. It is of great importance for the 19th National Congress of the CPC to include maintaining ‘one country, two systems’ and advancing the pursuit of national reunification in the fundamental strategies of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era. This not only demonstrates the importance the central government attaches to Hong Kong and Macao affairs but also the fact that the central government is firmly committed to implementing the ‘one country, two systems’ principle in the HKSAR and MSAR.” He also noted that, in his report at the 19th National Congress of the CPC, he called on the whole Party to support Hong Kong’s integration into the nation’s overall development, which is the right direction the city should head in and the natural choice for the SAR to maintain mutually complementary cooperation for win-win results with the Chinese mainland.
In Hong Kong for many years mainstream media and public opinion in general have avoided the fact that the State, including the ruling party, holds the constitutional right and power to exercise “one country, two systems” in the SAR, while opposition parties have doggedly stuck to their political stance of “resisting the central authorities and CPC”. So much so that many local residents wrongly assumed implementing “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong meant rejecting the leadership of the country’s ruling party and keeping it away from Hong Kong. After the national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law was demonized and national education strangled by the opposition camp, dedicated patriots who love the country as well as Hong Kong usually found it almost impossible to stay in Hong Kong politics once they were labeled “red”.
However, the general situation always develops whether people like it or not. As the unprecedented adjustment of the global economic, financial and political pattern continues to expand and deepen, the politico-economic center of gravity continues shifting to Asia. The Chinese nation has entered the new era of developing socialism with Chinese characteristics and is destined to stand front and center on the world stage. At the same time Hong Kong continues to struggle with deeply tangled-up structural contradictions in politics, economy and society. All these conditions require Hong Kong to integrate its own development into the nation’s overall development.
Many learned people in Hong Kong noticed the important changes in the general situation. For example, current Executive Council member and former legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, in an online commentary on Dec 7, noted the central authorities emphasized at least three aspects of Hong Kong policies. Firstly strictly abide by the nation’s Constitution and Basic Law of Hong Kong in handling city affairs. Secondly fulfill the constitutional duty of protecting the nation’s sovereignty, security and development interests. Thirdly support Hong Kong and Macao to integrate their own development into the overall development of the country. Tong went on to say: “In the 20 years since China resumed sovereign rule over Hong Kong the central government’s handling of HKSAR affairs, in the first 10 years, was more or less the free rein over its economic development; whereas in the following 10 years the State hoped the HKSAR could integrate more of its economy into the national economy, especially in the Pearl River Delta region, where Hong Kong’s influence is hard to miss. However, General Secretary Xi’s report at the 19th National Congress of the CPC elevates the matter to another level. Now we are talking about the country’s overall development, which concerns not only the country’s but also the world’s economy. Hong Kong must integrate its own development into the nation’s overall development if it wants to remain relevant to the world as well as the country.”
(The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings)
(Published on Page 10, China Daily Hong Kong Edition, December 20, 2017)