A member of Beijing’s Basic Law Committee, Rao Geping, has said that Beijing’s power over Hong Kong extends to more than just foreign affairs and defence.

Rao was asked about Thursday’s speech by top Beijing official Li Fei, in which he said that “the central government will jointly govern Hong Kong with the local authorities… the central authorities would directly manage certain important issues, while the more local affairs would be managed by Hong Kong, as delegated by the central government.”

Rao said it was the first he had heard about the concept as he had not listened to Li’s speech. China exercises sovereignty over Hong Kong in drawing up the Basic Law, Rao said, forming the Special Administrative Region and granting Hong Kong its high degree of autonomy.

“At the same time, the Basic Law rules that the central government has many powers, not only foreign affairs and defence,” he added, though did not elaborate on what the powers are.

Rao Geping. Photo: RTHK screeshot.

“Thus, to accurately understand the governance of Hong Kong, it should not only be about ‘Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong’ and a ‘high degree of autonomy,’ but [also that] the central government exercises its constitutional power of the Basic Law, and Hong Kong exercises the power granted by the central government.”

During his speech at a Basic Law forum on Friday, he said that – even though self-determination is a right ensured by the United Nations for colonies under colonial or military rule – Hong Kong is not a colony of China but a part of it.

He added that even if there should be a referendum, the fate of the city should be decided by the country’s 1.4 billion people and not the people of Hong Kong.

Pro-Beijing demonstrators shout slogans and wave flags outside the Hong Kong Legislative Council on November 13, 2016, during a rally in support of an interpretation of the city’s constitution — the Basic Law. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

“Hong Kong is a part of China and Hong Kong independence advocates are not in a position to deprive the whole country of political rights,” he said.

Joint checkpoint row

He was also asked by reporters about the legal basis in citing Article 20 of the Basic Law for implementing the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement. Li Fei said there has yet to be any conclusions.

In the proposed three-step process to implement the arrangement, the second step will be to ask the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to cite Article 20, so that part of the Express Rail West Kowloon terminus can be “leased” back to China for faster immigration controls.

West Kowloon Terminus of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link. File Photo: GovHK.

Rao said the Article is about additional authorisation: “The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the State Council, in accordance with Hong Kong’s developmental needs, use their discretion to increase Hong Kong’s power of autonomous.”

“How does this rule apply on the joint checkpoint arrangement? Who grants power to whom in the joint checkpoint arrangement? I don’t have to answer, you will have the answer when you think about it.”

Rao also said there is no room for discussion on the legislation of the national security law as it is Hong Kong’s duty to adopt it, and there is an urgency to do so. However, it is difficult to say when will be an appropriate timing, he said.


Kris Cheng

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.