Hong Kong officials summoned to doctrinal explainer on Chinese Communist Party Congress

By on 28/11/2017 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chair of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party, defended the seminar (Image courtesy: Exploringlife).

Senior civil servants were among 240 members of the Hong Kong government who on Thursday attended a seminar on the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress, in a development seen as showing the increasing influence of mainland Chinese politics on Hong Kong’s governance.

At the seminar, Leng Rong, director of the Chinese Communist Party’s literature research centre, spoke about the “spirit” of the 19th National Congress in October, where President Xi Jinping was confirmed as the party’s general secretary for a second term. But lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a non-official member of the Executive Council and chair of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party, rejected suggestions that civil servants had been given “instructions” from the central government.

The congress also approved the adoption of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the party’s constitution. Xi is the first Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping to give his name to the guiding party ideology.

Doctrinal explainer

The closed-door seminar – believed to be the first of its kind – was co-hosted by Wang Zhimin, director of the Chinese central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, who spoke about the content of the party congress relating to Hong Kong.

The two-hour event at the Hong Kong government’s Tamar headquarters in Admiralty was attended by chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, members of the government’s Executive Council and political advisers.

Each official was given three videos by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on China’s “rule of law, glory and diplomacy” as well as booklets on President Xi’s report to the party congress, on a recent speech by Wang, and on the Chinese constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Two systems converging?

Critics have raised concerns that inviting Communist Party officials to speak directly to Hong Kong ministers and civil servants undermines the “one country, two systems” principle in the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the territory, under which Beijing agreed to allow Hong Kong to retain its capitalist system and way of life for 50 years after the handover in 1997.

The principle, which is written into the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – granted executive, legislative and independent judicial powers to the special administrative region, giving it control over domestic, monetary and financial policy, including trading relations with foreign countries.

Speaking to media after the event, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee denied that the intention had been to extend direct control over Hong Kong officials.

“The civil service in Hong Kong is of high calibre,” she said, as reported by Radio Television Hong Kong. “And they are perfectly capable of interpreting Mr Wong’s comments and implementing what is in Hong Kong’s best interests.”

The Central Government Complex in Admiralty, Hong Kong Island, headquarters of the Hong Kong SAR government (Image courtesy: Wing1990hk).

A hexagon of relationships

Ip said that Wang had spoken about how to manage the six sets of relationships underpinning the “one country, two systems” principle, under which Beijing had pledged to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

The relationships were between the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law; Beijing’s comprehensive jurisdiction over the city and the promised high degree of autonomy; the central and Hong Kong governments; the country’s and the city’s development, “one country” and “two systems”; and differences in thinking among Hong Kong and mainland people.

In a statement issued after the talk, a Hong Kong government spokesman said, “Through the presentations and discussions in the seminars, politically appointed officials, senior government officials and those who take part in policy making can gain a better understanding of the issues concerned.

“The 19th National Congress is of utmost and far-reaching significance for the development of our country. It is also of great importance to Hong Kong. The section on Hong Kong in the report delivered at the 19th National Congress clearly outlines the support of the central government for Hong Kong’s integration into the national development strategies.”

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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