Beijing ticks off HK affairs office for weak leadership

Anti-graft watchdog finds lapses after routine inspection, says party rules not taken seriously

BEIJING • The anti-graft watchdog of China's ruling Communist Party has criticised the Beijing government department in charge of Hong Kong affairs for weak leadership and not properly following policies.

The party's graft-busting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said late last Friday that its most recent inspection of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office had revealed a series of problems.

"The leadership is not strong or powerful enough, and the enforcement of the relevant policies of the centre is not firm enough," the watchdog commission said in a statement.

The way people are promoted is not conducted in a serious manner, personnel changes are not carried out in a timely way, and party discipline rules not taken seriously enough, it said.

The anti-graft commission's report comes amid mounting concerns among pro-democratic politicians, activists and foreign diplomats that the central government's Liaison Office, Beijing's official representative body in Hong Kong, is actively interfering in the territory's politics and affairs.

The watchdog's inspection also found "clues" about problems with some senior officials, which have been reported to higher-ups, it said, without naming anyone or giving more details.

The statement quoted the head of the Hong Kong affairs office, Mr Wang Guangya, as saying that he "sincerely accepted" the report and that his agency would "rigorously and conscientiously carry out rectification".

Last Friday, China also expressed its "great indignation and strong condemnation" of some freshly elected Hong Kong lawmakers who raised the disputed issue of independence when they took their oaths of office in the city's Parliament last Wednesday.

At the swearing-in ceremony, rebel lawmakers swore, shouted, banged drums and railed against "tyranny" as calls grow for a split from Beijing.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under the so-called "one country, two systems" policy, granting Hong Kong a high degree of freedom and autonomy.

A 79-day "umbrella revolution" in late 2014 demanding Beijing allow full democracy in Hong Kong brought chaos to the streets, and anti-mainland Chinese sentiment has simmered since.

Some fear Beijing's growing role in the city undermines the "one country, two systems" principle.

Critics of the unpopular Hong Kong leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, accuse him to being too close to the head of the Liaison Office, Mr Zhang Xiaoming.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Beijing ticks off HK affairs office for weak leadership'. Print Edition | Subscribe