Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang has suggested that Hong Kong could be eclipsed by development in neighbouring Shenzhen within two years, as he warned that the city must not waste time on “politicising” issues.

Zhang, the chairman of the National People’s Congress, attended a closed-door meeting on Monday to speak to the 36-member Hong Kong delegation. He spoke about the chief executive election, the Basic Law interpretation concerning lawmakers’ oaths of office, and other issues.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, head of the delegation, quoted Zhang after the meeting as saying that Hong Kong must have confidence in its irreplaceable advantage and embrace China’s development.

Zhang Dejiang
Zhang Dejiang. Photo:

“[He said] times have changed – now it is the time for China to shine,” Tam said.

Tam cited Zhang as saying that Hong Kong’s status came from its economic development and China has “reserved spots” for Hong Kong and Macau to seize economic development opportunities.

She said Zhang did not say politics should not be discussed, but people cannot be politicising issues or turning to “street politics.”

National People's Congress npc beijing great hall
The Great Hall. Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

“It is unfortunate that these have became part of our lives,” Tam quoted him as saying.

“[Zhang said] three decades ago Shenzhen was only a fishing village, but Hong Kong was already part of the Four Asian Tigers,” she said. “However it is likely that in two years, Shenzhen may surpass Hong Kong. Therefore Hong Kong must grasp the opportunity – why not make things well? Do not waste time on useless matters.”

Three points of concern

Zhang also mentioned three points of “awareness” according to Tam.

Maria Tam
Maria Tam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

First was the stance on the “One Country, Two Systems” principle, whereby the central government’s policies on Hong Kong are clear in terms of securing the national interests, as well as the city’s prosperity and stability. The emergence of new situations in Hong Kong such as the independence movement did not mean the principle was problematic.

Secondly, the nation’s bottom line cannot crossed. Tam said there have been cases of lawmakers challenging the bottom line of Hong Kong’s legal system and of the nation’s “One Country, Two Systems” principle, hinting at the two disqualified lawmakers who used words some deemed insulting to China when they took their oaths.

“[Zhang said] one can talk about freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, but the rules of the game cannot be crossed,” she said. “Challenging the Basic Law will lead nowhere.”

The last point of awareness was that the members of the National People’s Congress must be responsible in upholding the Basic Law, even if they have finished their terms.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.