Beijing’s new envoy to Hong Kong has called for unity as well as effective governance to pull the city out of more than seven months of social and political turmoil, insisting that its problems can be solved if the “one country, two systems” principle is well implemented.
In his first public speech as the new director of the central government’s liaison office in the city, Luo Huining struck a measured, conciliatory note on Wednesday, appealing to all stakeholders to safeguard Hong Kong’s core values for a better future and reaching out to disgruntled youth in particular.
But he also spelled out Beijing’s key conditions, demanding an end to anti-government protest violence, urging civil servants to do their part, and insisting on the need to recognise “one country” while cherishing “two systems”.
“We believe that Hong Kong, our home, will continue to make us proud so long as people who love the country and Hong Kong work in unity, 180,000 civil servants fulfil their responsibilities, and all sectors of society make joint efforts to firmly uphold the core values of the rule of law and resolutely support the special administrative region government in its effective administration in accordance with the law,” he said.
“Hong Kong is a diversified society in which it comes as no surprise that there are different views and even significant disagreements on some specific issues … No issues among family members, no matter how serious they are, cannot be solved if consultations and discussions are conducted.”
Addressing guests at his office’s Lunar New Year reception, including pro-establishment politicians and members of the business elite, the man who replaced Wang Zhimin as director in a surprise move announced on January 4 praised embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor for her courage in handling Hong Kong’s “ordeal” since last June.
The priority was to end the violence and chaos, first sparked by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, as well as to restore social order, he stressed.
“Despite our differences in political views, all should agree that recognising ‘one country’ and cherishing ‘two systems’ will be key to securing Hong Kong people’s livelihood as well as the region’s future,” he said. “Hong Kong will usher in a new chapter of ‘When Hong Kong is good, so is the country; when the country is good, Hong Kong will be better’.”
It is sincerely hoped that the Hong Kong youth foster the sense of national identity
Luo Huining, liaison office chief
Luo warned that straying from Beijing’s governing formula would result in conflict and chaos.
He gave an assurance that the central government would provide Hongkongers, especially the city’s youth, with opportunities for development and room for growth.
“Hong Kong’s young people are sons and daughters of the big family of the Chinese nation. They are also the major force of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation as well as Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” he said.
“It is sincerely hoped that the Hong Kong youth foster the sense of national identity.”
Ip Kwok-him, a local delegate to China’s parliament and an adviser to the chief executive, saw Luo’s speech as a reflection of Beijing’s recognition of Lam’s efforts to restore order.
“His praise for Lam shows that Beijing wants the pro-establishment camp and various sectors in society to support the government’s strategies to bring Hong Kong back to normal,” he said.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok said Luo’s emphasis on youth showed Beijing was prioritising the need to foster a sense of national identity.
While opposition pan-democratic lawmakers were not invited to the reception, Ma said it did not mean the new envoy was refusing to communicate with them.
I thought the purpose of setting up the liaison office is to liaise with everybody in Hong Kong, and not just a small circle of their own people. The central government should have embraced different voices
Alvin Yeung, opposition legislator
“It just makes sense for the liaison office not to invite people to launch protests on a solemn occasion,” he said.
But lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the opposition Civic Party said the snub indicated the office’s attitude towards them would not change under the new director.
“I thought the purpose of setting up the liaison office is to liaise with everybody in Hong Kong, and not just a small circle of their own people,” Yeung said. “The central government should have embraced different voices.”
Yeung admitted his party members would have boycotted the reception even if they had been invited, but added: “You should not second-guess what the people you invite will do.”
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong affairs was far more important than matters such as the reception.
“All of society is looking at whether the Beijing and Hong Kong governments have new approaches to governing the city, to respond to societal demands,” Wu said. “You cannot ignore the protest movement that has lasted more than seven months.”
Additional reporting by Sum Lok-kei