After the rare appearance of new Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) member Zhao Leji at a recent meeting among Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), another new PSC member, Wang Huning, again to a lot of surprise of observers, attended a meeting of Hong Kong deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Tuesday.
His appearance at the meeting has further fuelled speculation about who is going to succeed NPC Standing Committee chairman Zhang Dejiang, who is set to retire this year, and take charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
It is because earlier on, members of the pro-establishment camp have got wind that Li Zhanshu, the incumbent secretary of the central secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CCP) and chief of the general office of CCP, is going to succeed Zhang and take charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
Yet the fact that so far Beijing hasn’t arranged for Li to meet with Hong Kong’s CPPCC and NPC delegates at all has cast a deep shadow of doubt on this piece of insider speculation.
Even some of Hong Kong’s NPC deputies told the media that they were completely clueless about why Beijing had sent Wang rather than Li to meet them.
The hearsay that Li is going to be put in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs is made even more enigmatic.
Some in the pro-establishment camp speculated it is because Li is perhaps getting very busy right now with the proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the existing presidential term limits, which explains why Beijing has sent Wang to meet with them instead.
Besides, some deputies to NPC added, it really doesn’t matter as to whether it was Li or Wang who met with them, because at the end of the day, it is President Xi Jinping who has the final word on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
The Hong Kong deputies who are now in Beijing have also stopped speculating that Hong Kong might have become less important in the eyes of our Beijing leaders given that Wang Huning, who is in charge of ideological issues, is ranked 5th in the PSC.
Given that Beijing has sent a PSC member, and not someone who doesn’t hold that status, to meet the Hong Kong deputies, it is proof that Hong Kong’s importance hasn’t diminished in the eyes of the central government, they say.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 7
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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