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Hu's three messages to Hong Kong

Publication Date : 06-07-2012


Chinese President Hu Jintao sent out three messages to Hong Kong during his visit last week to mark the 15th anniversary of the city's handover from British to Chinese rule.

The first came when he visited the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong garrison, which is responsible for defending the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and has generally maintained a low profile.

That day, Hu was greeted by 3,000 Chinese soldiers together with tanks and other state-of- the-art defence hardware, some of them shown for the first time. It was the largest military parade ever held in the SAR.

The message: Militarily, Hong Kong is now closely integrated with China's overall national defence system.

In other words, the SAR is now a full-fledged military region capable of defending itself against any form of attack.

When Deng Xiaoping devised the 'one country, two systems' model, he insisted that Chinese troops be stationed in Hong Kong as a visible symbol of Chinese sovereignty. But he might not have envisaged today's full combat-ready force.

This military capability far exceeds what Hong Kong required historically (not counting the Japanese invasion during World War II). It makes sense only when the SAR is seen as an integral part of China's national defence system.

Before 1997, external threats to China did not include Hong Kong, which was a British colony. After 1997, however, anyone waging war against China would also target Hong Kong.

By displaying its sizeable military presence in the SAR, China was reminding the local people - some of whom are disgruntled with Beijing - as well as the international community, that Hong Kong is Chinese territory.

Hu's political message to the SAR was that it should balance its quest for autonomy with the need to consider the greater interests of the country.

In his speech marking the 15th anniversary of the SAR, he made 14 references to the 'one country, two systems' model, which can be taken as his interpretation of how the model should work.

From the central government's point of view, "the core requirement and basic objective of practising 'one country, two systems' in Hong Kong" is to "safeguard state sovereignty, security and development interests", he said.

To this end, Hong Kong must keep a balance between:

- Adhering to the 'one country' principle and respecting the differences of the 'two systems';

- Upholding the authority of the central government and ensuring a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong SAR;

- Safeguarding the overall national interests and protecting the interests of various social sectors of Hong Kong;

- Supporting Hong Kong in actively conducting exchanges with the outside world and opposing interference by external forces in Hong Kong affairs.

These are subtle reminders to Hong Kongers not to overly push their demands for autonomy, freedom and democracy.

Hu also gave advice on how the SAR can move forward.

Its people should "bear in mind the overall interests (of China), follow the call of loving the motherland and loving Hong Kong".

They should also "uphold the authority of the Basic Law" - the SAR's mini-Constitution. It was essential to put into practice all the provisions of the Basic Law and improve the institutions and mechanisms related to its implementation, he stressed.

By this, Hu was clearly referring to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to pass a national security law.

But many people fear that such a law would curtail their freedoms in Hong Kong. The SAR government's attempt to push through such a Bill in 2003 led half a million people to take to the streets, forcing the government to shelve the legislation subsequently.

Through his remarks, Hu appeared to be showing his dissatisfaction with Hong Kong for failing to have China's interests at heart.

To coincide with the Chinese leader's visit, Beijing announced a bag of economic goodies aimed at helping Hong Kong to consolidate its position as an international financial centre. It also pledged to open up the mainland market further to goods, services and capital originating from the SAR.

A senior Chinese official said an experimental financial zone would be set up in Qianhai, in neighbouring Shenzhen. The new zone would create new business opportunities for Hong Kong companies and also allow Hong Kong banks to lend yuan directly to Chinese companies there.

The economic message: China always has the SAR's back.


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