Hong Kong should seize the opportunities brought by China’s strategic plans and deepen its cooperation with the mainland, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual work report on Tuesday.

Li was speaking at the opening of this year’s “two sessions,” the meeting of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. In a brief section allocated to Hong Kong and Macau, Li put his full support behind the two chief executives and their respective administrations.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang giving his annual work report at the 2019 NPC meeting. Photo: screenshot.

“We have to continue the full and accurate implementation of One Country, Two Systems, Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy, and work in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law,” he said.

“We support Hong Kong and Macau seizing the great opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Greater Bay Area, capitalise on their advantages, and deepen their mutually beneficial cooperation with the mainland.”

Li was referring to the country’s strategic plan for Southern China regional development which was unveiled last month. Hong Kong was listed as a “core city” and is expected to strengthen its role as an offshore Renminbi business hub and international financial centre, as well as promote high value-added service industries.

The Greater Bay Area was mentioned thrice in Li’s speech. “We strongly believe that Hong Kong and Macau can develop and improve on par with the mainland, and will certainly retain their long-term stability and prosperity,” Li added.

File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, said that Li was just reiterating China’s longstanding policy towards Hong Kong, and there was no further intent to appeal or reassure any group.

Another Hong Kong delegate, Choy So-yuk, said that it does not matter if Li used specific phrases or not, since China’s policy on Hong Kong remains the same.

Speaking separately on Monday, Wang Yang – who chairs the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference – mentioned Hong Kong under the topic of “unity and solidarity.”

“We encourage Hong Kong and Macau delegates to support their governments and chief executives to govern in accordance with law. We must unequivocally oppose Hong Kong independence,” Wang said.

Han Zheng meeting

On Monday, China’s First Vice-Premier Han Zheng met with about 200 Hong Kong and Macau delegates in a closed-door meeting, where Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam was also present.

Hong Kong delegate Henry Tang said afterwards that Han praised Lam for banning the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).

First Vice-Premier Han Zheng meeting Hong Kong and Macau delegates. Photo: screenshot.

The party was banned last September – the first case of its kind after Hong Kong’s 1997 handover – and the appeal against the ban was dismissed last month. Last week, China also made a rare request for Lam to submit a report on the incident.

“[Han] praised the chief executive for doing a good job tackling Hong Kong independence. He approved of the chief executive’s work, and I believe in the future she will not pull her punches,” Tang said.

“This time [Han] spent the most time talking about national development and the Greater Bay Area,” he added.

This was Han’s first time meeting Hong Kong and Macau delegates after taking on the position of overseeing the two special administrative regions.


Holmes Chan

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.