Beijing likely to toughen its stance on HK after plenary session

November 05, 2019 11:39
The ongoing social unrest is likely to prompt the central authorities to toughen their policies towards Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

The fourth plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China drew to a close last Thursday, after which Shen Chunyao, director of the Hong Kong, Macau and Basic Law Commission, laid down five major points at a press conference on the outcomes of that plenum.

The five points include the decision to “perfect” the system for appointing and replacing the leaders and other principal officials in the two Special Administrative Regions, as well as the resolution to establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism in the two SARs to safeguard national security and support the SARs in strengthening their law enforcement capabilities.

The emphasis that central authorities have placed on defending national security has immediately sparked concerns that Beijing may press the HKSAR government to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible.

It also cannot be ruled out that Beijing might directly impose the national security law of the mainland on Hong Kong or establish a new mechanism relating to national security issues in the days ahead. However, concrete indications that such moves would be taken remain to be seen.

As regards perfecting the system for appointing and replacing SAR leaders and other principal officials in the two regions, we believe Beijing is going to press ahead with this initiative. The idea is to install “a patriot” as the chief executive to enforce the central government’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong.

President Xi Jinping met with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Shanghai on Monday. During their meeting, Xi told Lam that the central government has a high degree of trust in her and fully acknowledges the work by her and her governance team.

Simply put, we believe the ongoing social unrest in Hong Kong, which has already affected Sino-US relations, is likely to prompt the central authorities to toughen their policies towards our city, and as a result, the room for maneuver for local dissidents is likely to diminish in the days ahead.

The question now arises: Is Beijing’s adoption of a more hardline policy towards Hong Kong likely to exacerbate the deep-rooted social conflicts, which are already difficult to resolve, in our city?

As Lam is set to meet with Vice-Premier Han Zheng in Beijing on Wednesday morning, perhaps all we can do right now is to wait and see if their meeting is going to give out any positive message about the way forward for our city.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 4

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal