Chinese officials lecture Hong Kong legislators on Five Year Plan

Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other Hong Kong officials join visiting Beijing leaders at a seminar Aug. 23. (Photo provided by Hong Kong Information Services Department)

KENJI KAWASE, Nikkei Asia chief business news correspondent | Hong Kong

HONG KONG — Chinese officials addressed Hong Kong lawmakers at the city’s legislature for the first time on Monday, lecturing them about priorities as the country moves into a new five-year economic plan.

Beijing officials usually invite Hong Kong legislators to meet with them in Shenzhen or other mainland cities, in a nod to the “one country, two systems” framework under which China promised autonomy to the territory when it regained control over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997. But many such taboos have given way amid China’s crackdown on dissent in the city since 2020.

“Connecting one-on-one with the nation’s 14th Five Year Plan is not only about connecting policies, industries and markets, but it is also about connecting ideas and mentalities,” Huang Liuquan, the Beijing delegation leader and deputy director of China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said Monday in an earlier session with local government officials.

He added that President Xi Jinping’s mantra of “the Chinese dream” and “the great revival of the Chinese race” includes “7.5 million Hong Kong compatriots’ Hong Kong dream.”

Luo Huining, Beijing’s top residing representative in Hong Kong, delivered three messages to local officials just before Huang spoke: Obtain a clear understanding of what China’s national planning demands, melt into the big picture of national development and make good use of the support provided for national policy.

Luo stressed that “the central government has been extremely concerned about the economic development and improved livelihood in Hong Kong.” The new five-year plan has given Hong Kong a “renewed position for development and provided even more policy supports,” the top Beijing envoy said.

“It is now time for the Hong Kong society to go a step further and get moving,” he said. “Making no progress means retrogression. Slow progress is also retrogression.”

Huang also encouraged Hong Kong legislators to grasp the opportunity to participate in the nation’s economic development, using an analogy from an ancient Chinese proverb that warns against missing the final boat.

The delegation also included mainland officials from the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the People’s Bank of China and the state’s information office.

The 14th Five Year Plan, which runs from 2021 through 2025, was passed by the National People’s Congress in March, along with longer-term targets for 2035. Hong Kong has been weaved into the plan alongside Macao. China looks to emphasize Hong Kong as an international center for finance, navigation, trade and aviation while enhancing its position as an offshore renminbi center and a science and innovation hub.

According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 and later registered with the United Nations, the “one country, two systems” arrangement was supposed to govern Hong Kong at least until 2047. The agreement signed and ratified by China stipulates that Beijing’s jurisdiction be restricted to foreign policy and national defense, with the rest left to Hong Kong under the notion of a “high degree of autonomy.”

China’s five-year plan is mainly about economic development and not foreign policy or national defense.

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council lost virtually all its opposition voices last year after four pro-democracy members were disqualified and a larger group then resigned in protest. The electoral overhaul imposed by Beijing in March further diminishes the chance for opposition candidates to contend in the postponed election, now scheduled for December.

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