23 October 2018
President Xi Jinping reviews the troops at the PLA garrison. His hidden message to Hong Kong officials is to stop pulling the wool over his eyes. Photo: Bloomberg
President Xi Jinping reviews the troops at the PLA garrison. His hidden message to Hong Kong officials is to stop pulling the wool over his eyes. Photo: Bloomberg

What was the key message of President Xi for Hong Kong?

President Xi Jinping delivered a series of speeches last week to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China.

He warned Hong Kong people not to seek separation from the mainland, but perhaps the most important message –delivered behind the scenes — was that Hong Kong should stop cheating him.

During a visit to the Junior Police Call Permanent Activity Centre and Integrated Youth Training Camp in Pat Heung on July 1, Xi chatted with members and encouraged them to serve the country and Hong Kong. He was briefed by Commissioner of Police Stephen Lo and JPC members on the camp’s facilities and training concept.

Such official meeting should not surprise us, but a news video that has gone viral on the Internet has many Hong Kong people thinking that Xi expressed his real thoughts on Hong Kong.

In the video, a Chinese immigrant-turned-Hong Kong police officer greets Xi, saying he is a good policeman and loves the country and loves Hong Kong in Mandarin. But Xi did not respond with a “thank you”. He asked in front of the camera if the immigrant was “officially qualified as a policeman” and whether he went to the police academy.

Many Hong Kong people were asking the same question after viewing the video. Why did Xi ask such intriguing questions?

They know that things had been arranged long before Xi’s visit to the center. It was clear that the Hong Kong Police wanted to build a positive image before Xi, so they filled the air with atmospherics. In addition, the policeman who talked to Xi wore a name badge with his Chinese name in simplified Chinese characters.

Xi’s questions showed that what he saw at that instance wasn’t the real thing. He knows the Hong Kong situation much better than outsiders think. That said, he could not believe what he heard from the policeman, especially as it was uttered in a rehearsed and “professional” manner.

That is why Xi had some doubts. The hidden message in his questions was that Hong Kong officials should stop pulling the wool over his eyes.

Xi does not have to keep track of Hong Kong’s daily affairs in order to know what is going on but he should have some basic knowledge of Hong Kong.

In fact, rumors were rife that former chief executive Leung Chun-ying was sending the wrong information to the Beijing authorities and misleading them into making the wrong decisions on Hong Kong issues. One of the latest examples is the electoral reform bill in 2015 when the government failed to get public opinion behind it but pushed through with the legislative process nonetheless. The bill was eventually defeated after pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the chamber, thinking they had denied it quorum.

Prior to Xi’s visit, several state leaders including Zhang Dejiang, who is in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs, and Beijing officials stationed in Hong Kong, stressed that the central government exercises overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong. That gave the public impression that Beijing was ready to tighten its grip on Hong Kong again by playing a more involved role.

Xi drew a red line on Hong Kong’s independence and separatist movement, saying that Beijing would not tolerate anyone to challenge its sovereignty.

He said both Beijing and Hong Kong should adhere to the “one country” principle and respect the differences of the “two systems” and that both should uphold the power of the central government and ensure a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong. Finally, he said both should work to enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness.

Xi understood the value of Hong Kong and showed that he has no plans to turn it into just another Chinese city. Xi’s message to Beijing officials responsible for Hong Kong is that they should not intervene too much in Hong Kong affairs and respect the Hong Kong SAR administration.

He opened the door for dialogue and communication with people who have different views or deep differences on some issues. Hong Kong should not get caught up in the swirl of politicisation and man-made confrontations, he said. The message could have been meant for Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the opposition camp, knowing how much the relationship between the government and opposition has deteriorated.

Now, Lam and the opposition can move forward together on other matters, particularly livelihood and non-political issues.

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EJ Insight writer

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