24 February 2019
Contrary to popular belief, Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, says China, despite being the second largest economy, still needs Hong Kong as much as Hong Kong needs it. Photo: CNSA
Contrary to popular belief, Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, says China, despite being the second largest economy, still needs Hong Kong as much as Hong Kong needs it. Photo: CNSA

Why we should pay attention to Wang Guangya

Recently Wang Guangya, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, gave a rare interview to the Zijing magazine (Bauhinia), an official periodical published by Beijing.

In the interview, Wang gave a detailed analysis of the problems currently facing Hong Kong and Beijing’s policies toward it.

Even though Wang doesn’t belong to the party leadership, his words and opinions carry weight and deserve our attention because as the chief Beijing official responsible for the affairs of Hong Kong, what he said directly reflects the mindset and rationale behind Beijing’s policies on Hong Kong.

I strongly recommend that all politicians, government officials and basically anyone who is interested in the state of affairs of Hong Kong to read the full text of Wang’s interview, which I believe offers us a rare and invaluable insight into the way forward under “one country, two systems”.

First of all, contrary to popular belief and the cliché repeated by the pro-establishment camp in recent years that as the mainland has become the world’s second largest economy, we need it more than it needs us, Wang pointed out a fact in his interview that despite China’s growing economic influence, Hong Kong’s role as China’s gateway to the world remains irreplaceable in the foreseeable future, particularly when it comes to helping the mainland to fully integrate into the global market.

In other words, while Hong Kong needs the mainland as a growth engine, the mainland also needs us.

I would infer that China might even rely on us more as its window to the outside world over the next decade or so, given the huge economic and political uncertainty posed by incoming US President Donald Trump.

And Beijing has every reason to keep the long-standing and unique advantages of Hong Kong such as our freedom of speech and information, rule of law and judicial independence intact, because the degree to which Beijing can preserve our advantages and uniqueness as a free society will have a direct influence on the confidence in “one country, two systems” among global investors.

The day investors from around the world stop believing that Hong Kong is part of but different from the mainland will be the day Hong Kong loses its economic value. If that happens, that is definitely not a good news for Beijing.

As far as political unity and social harmony are concerned, director Wang referred to the pan-democrats as “friends”, hoping that they can facilitate dialogue with Beijing and contribute to the development of Hong Kong with a positive and constructive attitude.

Unfortunately, unless the Leung Chun-ying administration and his successor stop adopting the “you-are-either-with-us-or-against-us” mindset and ditch their hostile stance towards the pan-democrats, chances are Wang’s sincere hope will remain an unfulfilled dream.

Let me raise several examples here to prove that the Leung administration and the pro-establishment camp still bear a lot of ill will toward the pro-democracy camp and are reluctant to extend the olive branch and facilitate bilateral co-operation.

Firstly, even though the pan-democrats took half of the popular votes in the last Legco election, they were still denied chairmanship or even deputy chairmanship of the various committees in the legislature by the pro-establishment camp, who have continued to throw their weight around in Legco using the majority seats they are holding.

In the meantime, the number of pan-democratic members on the various consultation and public bodies is in decline.

To make matters worse, it appears the government has stopped appointing pan-democrats to some key public bodies such as the Independent Police Complaints Council and the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority in recent years, suggesting that the administration could be deliberately excluding the pan-democrats from the policymaking process.

The SAR government’s hostility toward the pan-democrats is working against the fulfilment of Wang’s sincere hope.

As far as the choice for the next chief executive is concerned, director Wang said a fundamental criteria for choosing the next person for the top job is whether he or she can fully implement the Basic Law, keep Beijing accurately informed of the latest public opinion and state of affairs in Hong Kong, precisely explain Beijing’s policy, as well as fulfill the role as a bridge between the central government and the people of Hong Kong.

In other words, when it comes to choosing the next CE, what Beijing is looking for is not a yes man. In my next article, I will go into more detail on this.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 4

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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