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This week in politics: Centralising & Resuming Power......


This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week: Centralising & Resuming Power, Reshuffling of Officials; Revamping the Systems, Tightening the Reins(一周政情:全收權 大換血 急改制 緊操控)

The most prominent political news this week is the political initiatives before and after the Chief Executive's duty report to the Central Authorities, which clearly conveyed the Central Authorities' intention to swiftly implement total governance of Hong Kong under the banner of "patriots ruling Hong Kong". As a result, the Liaison Office and the SAR's governing team will face a major change of leadership. The executive, the legislature and the judicial system will face substantial reforms, and even the telecommunications and cyberworld will face major controls.

Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a virtual meeting with HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam on 27 Jan, 2021 to hear her annual work report. Photo: CCTV 

On the day of the Chief Executive's duty report to Beijing, Carrie Lam uploaded a rare post on her blog admitting her mistakes. Lam admitted that Hong Kong had not performed as well as the Mainland, Taiwan and Macau in the prevention and control of COVID-19, but that it had managed to stay on track compared to other international metropolises.

This political message is a typical political move for local officials to "identify their shortcomings" when reporting to the Central Government, so as to avoid direct criticism from the Central Government. It is believed that the Central Government has given her the mandate to make such a statement, or that she has a tacit agreement with the Central Government to do so.

This reflects that she has accumulated a certain amount of political capital as a result of the Western sanctions imposed on her for co-operating with the Central Government in implementing the national security law, and that she has not been wiped out by the failure to prevent and control the epidemic. She can therefore remain in office for observation after some self-criticism, but whether she can be re-elected remains unknown.

After Carrie Lam's self-criticism, Xi Jinping's admonition to her was revealed by the party mouthpiece CCTV. The core message was clear: to ensure that the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" will work steadily and effectively, China must always adhere to the principle of "patriots ruling Hong Kong".

Xi said that this was "a matter of national sovereignty, security and development interests", and that only when "patriots ruling Hong Kong" can the Central Government's overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong be implemented and the constitutional order established by the Constitution and the Basic Law be upheld. This is a very unusual message for the following reasons:

(1) When Xi Jinping met with Carrie Lam in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Xi was quoted in official media releases as saying that he wanted to insist "One Country, Two Systems", or that he wanted to fully implement "one country, two systems". This year, similar remarks have disappeared, making "patriots ruling Hong Kong" the most prominent theme of the message.

(2) Xi Jinping's request comes at a time when the pan-democratic legislators have already left LegCo en masse, the executive and the legislature are under the full command of the Central Government, national security personnel are already stationed in Hong Kong, the police force can be directed at will through the national security mechanism, and arrests and prosecutions are all subject to political instructions. However, Xi still wants to stress that patriots rule Hong Kong. In other words, in the eyes of the Central Authorities, those in power in Hong Kong are not all patriots (yet) and need to be replaced!

(3) Although "patriots ruling Hong Kong" was already proposed during the Deng Xiaoping era, the definition given by Deng Xiaoping back then was that as long as one sincerely supported the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty, one was considered a patriot and could participate in Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong regardless of being situated on the left, right, or centre of the spectrum. Now, with the introduction of measures to counter BNO visa arrangement by the UK, even the Correctional Services Department requires prisoners with dual nationality to declare their Chinese nationality only and exempt them from visits by foreign consulates. The pro-Beijing camp, especially the civil servants, is all in danger of holding foreign passports, and these foreign passports are evidence that they are not patriotic enough.

(4) Right after Xi Jinping's speech, DAB held a press conference on Sunday, proposing "reform Hong Kong" and reforming the administrative and judicial structure. Some DAB members said that with the Central Government stressing the principle of patriots ruling Hong Kong, more DAB members could be expected to join the government's governing team, reform the government's bureaucratic style and strengthen the complaint mechanism against judicial officers.

(5) At the same time, a pro-Beijing media outlet HK01 quoted sources as saying that there would be a tsunami-scale personnel change in the Liaison Office, with half of the staff being replaced. The report said that the replacements would come from all over the country, not necessarily knowing Cantonese, or having no experience in working in Hong Kong and Macau affairs, and that the key was to strengthen governance in Hong Kong.

If the above points are linked together, the whole picture is clear. The so-called "only when patriots rule Hong Kong can the Central Government's overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong be implemented" actually means that the Central Government will take full authority over the SAR Government, with the Central Government's governing team in Hong Kong taking direct command behind the scenes.

Beijing hopes that the political cadres trained by the Central Government will take over the executive, legislative, judicial and law enforcement powers, replacing the British-trained governing team. If the existing senior officials are willing to co-operate and help the Central Authorities to realise this great plan of "power resumption", they may still have a seat in the next team, otherwise they will have to step down and give up their power.

In the midst of this wave of "power resumption" to the Central Authorities, it has become the unshirkable political task of the SAR Government to strengthen its control over all aspects of society, in order to pave the way for patriots to govern Hong Kong without any mistakes or problems. This is why the ripples in the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) have continued unabated; the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau has formally proposed the registration of real names on SIM cards on the pretext of crime prevention and the eradication of burner cards; the blocking of Hong Kong Chronicles website has set a precedent for censoring the Internet; and even the prevention and control of COVID has to follow the example of the Mainland in closing down small areas for mandatory testing. These are examples to show the SAR government's decisiveness. Hong Kong is rapidly moving towards the Mainland in terms of social governance.


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