Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Director Xia Baolong’s six-day inspection trip in Hong Kong from Thursday, at a time when the international situation is rapidly changing amid worsening geopolitics, is significant in multiple ways.
The 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China came up with the national strategy of “promoting the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation with Chinese-style modernization”, suggesting that China will take a path of modernization different from that of the West. The Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions are assigned a significant role in this grand strategy. The report to the 20th CPC National Congress clearly states that the central authorities will support Hong Kong and Macao in developing their economies, improving people’s livelihoods, and resolving deep-seated problems in economic and social development … support Hong Kong and Macao in better integrating themselves into the national development strategy and playing a bigger role in the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. In his speech at the closing meeting of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping said: “Building a strong country cannot be separated from the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao.” It can be seen from these remarks that the central government attaches great importance to and cares very much for Hong Kong and Macao.
Xia is also a member of the leading group on Hong Kong and Macao affairs under the CPC Central Committee. He has come to Hong Kong to specifically convey the central leadership’s care for and the importance it attaches to Hong Kong, which are among the purposes of his trip.
The central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction over the SARs is not only reflected in directly exercising such powers but also in supervising the SARs’ exercise of all powers within their high degree of autonomy … Xia Baolong’s inspection trip to Hong Kong serves the purpose of having a good grasp of how the HKSAR fares, and is a move to fulfill his duty to coordinate and supervise, which fully demonstrates the central government’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong
More importantly, Xia’s inspection of Hong Kong embodies the central government’s overall jurisdiction over the special administrative region, which, together with Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, constitutes an organic unity. In the past, some people interpreted the two as opposed to each other. Now, more and more people are realizing that Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” is not “full autonomy”: It is premised on the central government’s overall or comprehensive jurisdiction over the city. The central government’s inspection and supervision of the work of the SARs is a manifestation of the exercise of its overall jurisdiction.
Developing the local economy and improving people’s livelihoods are matters within the scope of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and are the responsibility of the HKSAR government. But this does not mean that the central government should take a cavalier attitude toward the special administrative region. As a matter of fact, the central government has introduced numerous policies and measures to support Hong Kong in tackling the deep-seated problems plaguing the local economy and people’s livelihoods. It has also instructed Guangdong and other provinces to proactively assist Hong Kong in many areas. The central government simply needs to concern itself with how the SAR is doing.
The central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction over the SARs is not only reflected in directly exercising such powers but also in supervising the SARs’ exercise of all powers within their high degree of autonomy granted by the Constitution and the Basic Laws. Xia’s inspection trip to Hong Kong serves the purpose of having a good grasp of how the HKSAR fares, and is a move to fulfill his duty to coordinate and supervise, which fully demonstrates the central government’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong.
Under the recently released plan on reforming Party and State institutions, a Hong Kong and Macao work office of the CPC Central Committee will be established. Its job is to undertake investigation, research, coordination and supervision in implementing “one country, two systems”, exercising the central government’s overall jurisdiction over the SARs, administering Hong Kong and Macao in accordance with the law, safeguarding national security, ensuring people’s well-being, and supporting the integration of Hong Kong and Macao into the national development strategy. The biggest benefit of this reform is to enhance the efficiency of the governing structure of the central authorities for Kong and Macao affairs by creating a framework featuring integrated leadership, integrated planning, integrated promotion and integrated implementation of policies.
Xia, a deputy leader of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the CPC Central Committee and director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, not only meets with the chief executive, other principal officials of the HKSAR government, members of the Legislative Council and members of the judiciary but also people from all walks of life in Hong Kong during his trip. Xia will also attend a number of symposiums and research sessions to hear directly the views and suggestions of people from all walks of life and all sectors. In regard to the issues having emerged in implementing the central government’s overall jurisdiction, Xia will coordinate and supervise the implementation of relevant matters. In short, Xia will inspect, coordinate and supervise, during his trip, the implementation of various works in the SAR, on behalf of the central government.
The press release about Xia’s visit to Hong Kong was issued by the HKSAR government. Most of his activities in Hong Kong are also to be arranged by the HKSAR government. This tells us at least two things:
First, it is a display of political appropriateness. Article 12 of the Basic Law states: “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be a local administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, which shall enjoy a high degree of autonomy and come directly under the Central People’s Government.” This defines the relationship between the central government and the HKSAR. Thus, when top officials of the Central People’s Government come to Hong Kong, the HKSAR government is obligated to receive them.
Second, it demonstrates the central government’s recognition of and support for Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s and the HKSAR government’s work in governing the city. Since taking office, the incumbent HKSAR government has done a lot of practical work in accordance with the central government’s declared requirement for the HKSAR government: To better combine a proactive government with an efficient market in administering Hong Kong. For example, the HKSAR government has made breakthroughs in tackling problems related to people’s livelihoods, such as housing shortage and poverty alleviation. It has also taken the initiative to coordinate with relevant ministries and departments of the central government and local governments of Guangdong province, as well as proactively participating in the Belt and Road Initiative with stepped-up efforts to strengthen economic and trade ties with the Middle East and Southeast Asia. These moves and efforts demonstrate a responsible attitude toward the long-term development of Hong Kong and the well-being of its residents, which are “in tune” with the thinking of the central government and have been commended by the central government.
The author is vice-chairman of the Committee on Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.