Hong Kong Justice Minister downplays Xi's assertion of China's 'comprehensive jurisdiction' over city

 Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen leaving the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong on Aug 3, 2017.
Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen leaving the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong on Aug 3, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said on Sunday (Oct 29) that Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent assertion of Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the city would not undermine its high degree of autonomy.

He made the remarks days after Mr Xi, speaking at the Communist Party congress earlier this month, called for melding Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" with the city's "high degree of autonomy" in a natural or "organic" way, reported the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Mr Yuen downplayed the import of Mr Xi's words, saying, "We should not exaggerate a few words and be overly worried. Xi did not make only such remarks (on full jurisdiction) in his report - he at the same time stressed the need to respect 'one country, two systems'."

He said the phrase "comprehensive jurisdiction" only explained why the country could set up the Hong Kong special administrative region, which exercises a high degree of autonomy and enjoys executive, legislative and independent judicial power.

"It would be fundamentally impossible for the country to authorise Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy if it did not have full jurisdiction over the city," he said. "The two things are not contradictory."

Mr Yuen also spoke against the politicising of legal issues in the wake of "unfair accusations" that government prosecutors had political motivations in the jailing of several local activists.

"There is a problem in Hong Kong of politicising legal issues," he said. "(The government prosecutors) have not studied the case from a political perspective, but are accused of doing so. That is very unfair to my colleagues," he said.

Last Friday, the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office's new director Zhang Xiaoming said that Mr Xi's statement was targeted at a small number of people who "blatantly challenge the 'one country' principle".

The democracy faction in the city argued that the hardline gesture would not resolve the tension between Hong Kong and Beijing, reported SCMP.