Beijing has pledged to resolutely “prevent and curb” external forces from meddling with Hong Kong and Macau affairs, as it seeks to strengthen a sense of national identity and patriotism in the two cities over the next five years.
Under proposals unveiled by the Communist Party on Tuesday, the central government would also support Hong Kong and Macau in reinforcing their competitive advantages, and becoming a global technology hub.
But Hong Kong’s role as an international financial centre was not mentioned in the document, while analysts also noted that Beijing had placed more emphasis on its authority by underlining the threat of foreign interference after the city was roiled by social unrest last year.
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The pledges were made as the party revealed its recommendations for the Chinese government’s drafting of its 14th five-year plan for 2021-25, as well as its vision and goals to be achieved by 2035.
The document was released hours after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and five of her ministers set off on a five-day trip to Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, during which she is expected to meet Vice-Premier Han Zheng.
The proposals, which were approved at the conclusion of the party’s fifth plenum on Thursday, consisted of 60 sections, the 57th of which was dedicated to Hong Kong and Macau.
“We must boost Hong Kong and Macau compatriots’ sense of national identity and patriotism … as we resolutely prevent and curb external forces from interfering with the two cities’ affairs,” it said.
“We must also safeguard the [cities’] constitutional order as prescribed by the [Chinese] constitution and the Basic Laws,” it went on, in a reference to Hong Kong and Macau’s mini-constitutions.
In a communique issued at the conclusion of the plenum, the country’s leaders pledged to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau in the next five years, but made no other direct reference to the international finance hub.
In the proposals on Tuesday, the party elaborated on the point about prosperity and stability, and said it would include “comprehensive and accurate” implementation of “one country, two systems”, the framework under which the cities were governed.
“We must also implement the central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction over the two [cities], as well as their legal systems and enforcement mechanisms for protecting national security.”
The term “comprehensive jurisdiction”, first introduced in a State Council white paper in June 2014, refers to the notion that Beijing has the power to oversee different areas of Hong Kong’s governance.
Under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in June, acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces could be punishable by life imprisonment.
In a press conference on Friday, Han Wenxiu, deputy director of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission, pledged that Beijing would help Hong Kong strengthen its “unique advantages” as an international city.
Those lines were repeated in Tuesday’s proposal, which said Beijing would support Hong Kong and Macau in “consolidating and enhancing their competitive advantages”.
“We support [the two cities] in … realising the diversified and sustainable growths of their economies,” it added.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, also a member of the Basic Law Committee, said: “It is only natural that the central government will tighten its control over Hong Kong after last year’s social unrest, which, to the central government, exposed the problem that Hong Kong has no threshold for foreign interference.”
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of semi-official think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Beijing had placed more emphasis on its power over the city.
“The message is that the central government will make more use of its power to deal with Hong Kong affairs and lead the development of Hong Kong,” he added.
But opposition lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, said Beijing needed to realise that its tough stance on Hong Kong, and Lam’s governance, were also to blame.
“It is their policies that have made Hong Kong society so divided and unstable. They are actually threatening national security,” he argued.
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