China cuts reference in key report to Hong Kong's people governing themselves
March 5 at 6:22 AM Email the author
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech Monday during the opening of the first session of the 13th National Peopleâs Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
BEIJING â" China may have formally tightened the screws on Hong Kong on Monday by eliminating a reference to the people of the territory governing themselves, in a key report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the opening of the annual meeting of the countryâs parliament.
In a long address to the National Peopleâs Congress, Li set out the governmentâs detailed report on its achievements over the past year and the c hallenges ahead.
The text on many issues is usually very similar from one year to the next, but subtle differences in language sometimes yield important clues as to Communist Party thinking.
This year, there was one striking omission, quickly spotted by reporters from Hong Kong.
Describing the principle of "one country, two systems" under which Hong Kong has been governed since the handover from British rule, the 2017 report said: âunder which the people of Hong Kong govern themselves, the people of Macao govern themselves, and both regions enjoy a high degree of autonomy.â
That entire phrase was eliminated this year.
Anson Chan, who served as the territoryâs top bureaucrat during the handover from British to Chinese rule, said the omission was significant and yet another affirmation that âwhatever autonomy Hong Kong enjoys is for Beijing to give and take away at will.â
âWith its growing economic and geopolitical clout, Beijing is not even bothering to keep up the pretense that âone country, two systemsâ â" with the Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong â" is alive and well,â she wrote in an email.
âI fear that with the institutional safeguard removed and the fact that Xi can serve indefinitely, he will tighten his grip over Hong Kong and continue to undermine the rule of law, our core values and way of life,â she added. âUniversal suffrage will recede even further into the future.â
But Rita Fan, a member of the outgoing Standing Committee of the National Peopleâs Congress, said Hong Kong people did not need to read too much into the omission, because references to Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong and the high degree of autonomy were state policies and included in the Basic Law governing the territory.
âItâs not just reflected clearly in the Basic Law, but itâs also from the constitution of our country. So thereâs no need to repeat this every year. In fa ct, itâs not going to change,â she told reporters. President Xi himself has said on a number of occasions that âone country, two systemsâ is the policy of this country and it will not change. So I donât think we need to worry about that or read too much into something.â
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong in 2014 to call for full democracy in the territory, but the âUmbrella Movementâ failed to win any concessions from the governments of Hong Kong and China.
Since then, experts say, Beijing has steadily tightened its grip on Hong Kong and chipped away at the autonomy it has enjoyed under "one country, two systems.â Pro-democracy politicians said the latest wording was only another part of that process.
âIt is an obvious gesture to solidify Beijingâs increasingly intrusive role in Hong Kongâs own domestic affairs and continue the erosion of Hong Kongâs autonomy,â said Avery Ng, a pro-democracy activist and chairman of the League of Social Democrats in Hong Kong. âThis small omission is a big step backward.â
Andy Chan, the convener of the Hong Kong National Party, called the âone country, two systemsâ model a trap.
âThis is a plot written before 1997,â he said. âThe Chinese Communist Party is colonizing Hong Kong, and will eventually turn Hong Kong into China.â
In both 2017 and 2018, the central government expressed support for the chief executives of both Hong Kong and Macao in exercising âlaw-based governance,â growing the economy and promoting social harmony. In 2017, the list included the phrase âadvancing democracy,â and in 2018, âprogressively advancing democracy.â
But in reality, experts say, Beijing has decided that democracy in Hong Kong is a dangerous idea that needs to be quashed. The territoryâs chief executive, Carrie Lam, was elected last year by a 1,200-member Election Committee packed with Beijing loyalists.Source: Google News Hong Kong | Netizen 24 Hong Kong