China has assured Hong Kong about maintaining the status quo under “one country, two systems”.
Zhang Dejiang, the highest state official responsible for Hong Kong, told an official reception the arrangement “will not and should not need to be changed”, adding it is a “basic national policy”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
It was the clearest indication of the central government’s official thinking regarding its future relationship with the special administrative region under the governing principle which expires in 2047.
He did not give a timeline.
Zhang, who is also the country’s most senior lawmaker, said maintaining the status quo is a matter of “strategic choices rather than expediency”.
He is on a rare three-day visit to Hong Kong where he addressed a conference on China’s plan to build an Asia-Europe economic corridor.
“One country, two systems” was proposed by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s to resolve a sticking point over how a capitalist society can exist in a communist state during negotiations for Hong Kong’s handover to China by Britain.
Zhang said Deng’s governing principle is the “greatest common denominator between Beijing and Hong Kong”.
The formula is aimed at maintaining Hong Kong’s “characteristics and advantages to the largest extent”, he said.
He dismissed claims that Beijing wants to turn Hong Kong into a mainland city, saying the existing arrangement will last because it is favorable to both sides.
Zhang said problems in Hong Kong are either chronic or new ones and will take time to resolve.
But he said Hong Kong people can fix them. The important thing is that people don’t waver over “one country, two systems”.
Zhang said only a “very small number” of Hong Kong people reject “one country” and these are separatists disguised as localists.
He was commenting on the emergence of a pro-independence camp.
Political commentator Johnny Lau said Zhang laid down Beijing’s bottom line on the issue of Hong Kong independence and that was his most important message.
Neo-Democrat lawmaker Gary Fan said he doubts Hongkongers have been reassured by Zhang’s comments.
Pro-establishment legislator Wong Kwok-kin called Zhang’s remarks about independence reasonable, saying these were merely a warning, not a denunciation of separatism.
And Lau Siu-kai, a deputy to China’s highest political advisory body, said Zhang’s speech was addressed to localists and separatists who should know the difference between their ideologies.
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