By Tony Cheung
This article first appeared in South China Morning Post on 6 March 2018
Link to original article: HERE
Fifth-ranking Politburo Standing Committee member urges Hongkongers to strengthen their sense of national identity, promising more initiatives to help them reap the benefits of the Greater Bay Area project
China’s propaganda tsar on Tuesday warned that the idea of independence for Hong Kong must be suppressed, as Beijing would show zero tolerance for such advocacy as well as anything jeopardising the city’s mini-constitution and stability.
Wang Huning, the fifth-ranking member on the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee, also urged Hongkongers to strengthen their sense of national identity, promising more initiatives to help them reap the benefits of the Greater Bay Area development project, which seeks to forge an economic powerhouse across Hong Kong, Macau and nine mainland Chinese cities.
Wang’s warning, delivered through Hong Kong delegates at the country’s annual “two sessions” of the national legislature and top political advisory body in the capital, echoed remarks on Sunday by Zhao Leji, the sixth-ranking member in the Politburo Standing Committee.
Zhao made it clear that Beijing would not allow anyone to use the autonomy that Hong Kong enjoyed under the “one country, two systems” policy as a cover to infiltrate or sabotage the nation.
Neither Zhao nor Li referred specifically to independence advocacy.
Wang has been credited with being one of the architects of the “Chinese Dream”, President Xi Jinping’s widely promoted vision for the rejuvenation of the nation.
In a meeting with 36 local deputies to the National People’s Congress on Tuesday, Wang pulled no punches as he spelled out a list of Beijing’s “hopes” for Hong Kong’s political and economic roles, as well as governance.
On the political front, Wong Yuk-shan, deputy convenor of the Hong Kong delegation, quoted the propaganda boss as making it clear that the city should continue to implement one country, two systems, as Beijing enjoyed “comprehensive jurisdiction” over it.
“He said no act that jeopardises the Basic Law or Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability can be tolerated … The central government also has zero tolerance of Hong Kong independence, and it must be seriously tackled, or even suppressed.”
Wang hoped that Hong Kong people could strengthen their “patriotism and sense of national identity”, Wong said.
“Wang said the constitution will include [Xi’s vision for] ‘the Chinese nation’s rejuvenation’; it shows that Hong Kong people need to understand the nation’s fate is closely related to them, and that … Hong Kong youth’s future and the country’s development are also inseparable.”
On governance, Wang praised the city’s new administration “for starting their term well” since taking office in July last year, under the leadership of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
On the economic front, Wang urged Hong Kong to fully participate in China’s development strategies, noting that the Belt and Road and Greater Bay Area initiatives offered timely opportunities for better integration with the mainland, Wong said.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to Beijing’s ambitious plan for silk route-style international trade and development.
NPC deputy Ma Fung-kwok, convenor of the Hong Kong delegation, said Wang had listened to the speeches of six deputies before speaking. Some of the six suggested ways to make it easier for Hong Kong people to live, invest and undertake technological research in the mainland cities of the Greater Bay Area.
“Wang said Beijing will seriously implement policies to offer more convenience for Hong Kong people,” Ma said.
NPC delegate Brave Chan Yung said Wang told them the central government planned to make the lives of Hongkongers easier across the border to ensure they would be treated like mainlanders.
Wang said there might be “good news soon” on that front, according to Chan.
Chan’s party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, submitted 31 proposed measures to mainland authorities, including allowing people to use their Hong Kong bank cards to register for digital payments.
In the last few years, the state leader who met the delegation was Zhang Dejiang, who is in charge of Hong Kong affairs. Ma said Wang’s attendance did not mean he would take over that role from Zhang.