China signals tough measures, patriotic education in Hong Kong

Senior Chinese official says Beijing will refine the way chief exec, key officials are selected

Mr Shen Chunyau, a senior Chinese official from the National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament, said there was a particular need to enhance education for public servants and youth in Hong Kong and Macau. PHOTO: AFP

Beijing has finally indicated its long-term strategy to deal with the ongoing unrest that has convulsed Hong Kong for months. It appears to be a mixture of tough measures, sharper appointment policies, and ways to infuse patriotism.

Top Communist Party officials hinted in a cryptic communique released on Thursday evening that more "enforcement mechanisms" would be put in place to restore law and order.

Yesterday, speaking on the outcomes of the plenum, a senior Parliament official said Beijing would push for tougher laws on national security. Mr Shen Chunyao, head of the Parliament's Basic Law Committee, also said China would refine the way the region's chief executive and key officials are selected, and hinted that it would introduce "patriotic" education.

Underlying this approach is the emphasis on China's sovereignty under the "one country, two systems" framework by which Hong Kong and Macau are governed.

"We must ensure that the 'one country' is the premise and basis of the 'two systems', and the 'two systems' is subordinate to, and derived from, the 'one country'," he said.

Hong Kong was an "important part" of the discussions at the Communist Party's plenum of its central committee, where close to 400 officials decided on China's future direction.

Experts say Beijing increasingly views the protests in Hong Kong, which began in opposition to an extradition Bill, as a direct challenge to its authority and a threat to national security.

It has made clear its approach on Hong Kong, even as the city's government has taken more hard-line measures in recent weeks - including passing anti-mask legislation. This week, it obtained a court order to ban the spread of online messages inciting violence.

While the strategy was light on specifics, it offers clues as to how Beijing will deal with the Special Administrative Region.

Mr Shen said there was a need to improve the system under which key leaders such as the chief executive were appointed, that these people should "above all be patriotic".

He also said officials had agreed there was a need for laws and enforcement mechanisms to better "defend national security".

A previous attempt to introduce such laws in 2003 was abandoned after hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest.

Mr Shen also signalled that Beijing would introduce "patriotic" education for youth and public servants to help them better understand "the national reality, China's history, and Chinese culture".

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo said it was clear that Beijing would like to "tighten its grip on the city, which is behaving like a runaway province".

"The control of ideology is of paramount importance to Beijing, and that is what Hong Kong lacks," she said.

On the other hand, Professor Lau Siu Kai, a top China adviser on Hong Kong policy, said in Beijing's view Hong Kong had become a place of confrontation with the mainland.

"China feels that some Hong Kong people are just unwilling to understand that to keep 'one country, two systems' and a high degree of autonomy, Hong Kong has to respect the central government and the country," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2019, with the headline China signals tough measures, patriotic education in Hong Kong. Subscribe