Beijing has praised the newly founded Hong Kong Coalition on Wednesday, led by former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying. They vowed to “reboot” the city by upholding One Country, Two Systems, reviving the economy and “restoring” the rule of law.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the former city leaders were accompanied by pro-China figures Maria Tam and Tam Yiu-chung to announce the group’s official launch ahead of the 2020 legislative elections in September. Tung said Hong Kong had to overcome three crises in terms of the coronavirus outbreak, economic recession and political turmoil. He accused the opposition of engaging in a “scorched earth” approach at all costs, with the intention of destroying the city’s future.

Hong Kong Coalition
Hong Kong Coalition press conference on May 5. Photo: Facebook screenshot.

“Their intention is to harm the common interests of Hongkongers, and push Hong Kong toward the edge of the cliff… [we] will not let you succeed,” Tung said.

The city has been gripped by large-scale protests since last June, after a now-axed extradition bill sparked public outrage. Meanwhile, the spread of Covid-19 – which has infected 1,040 people in Hong Kong – has caused vast damage to the economy.

Tung – the city’s first post-handover leader – claimed that Hong Kong had become an international “battleground,” where foreign forces “sabotage” the One Country, Two Systems in the name of advocating for democracy and human rights.

Tung Chee-hwa
Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa at the Hong Kong Coalition press conference on May 5. Photo: Facebook screenshot.

The other ex-leader, Leung, said as protests had ebbed during the epidemic, it was good timing to promote a “rebooting” of Hong Kong. He said the coalition would help this year’s graduates find jobs by providing training and internships.

“Being able to find a job would be best. If not, it would be good to have some training programmes or do volunteer work. Just don’t throw them on the scrap heap,” Leung said, adding that most students did not approve of violent protests.

Recent polls show support for the protest movement’s aims growing amid Covid-19.

Leung Chun-ying
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying at the Hong Kong Coalition press conference on May 5. Photo: Facebook screenshot.

The coalition was backed by a total of 1,545 heavyweights from different sectors. Business magnates Li Ka-shing, Lee Shau-kee and Joseph Lau were among the co-founders, while 10 presidents of the 11 local universities were on the list as well, aside from Way Kuo of the City University of Hong Kong.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) praised the coalition’s declaration, backing its calls for rejecting the protesters’ notion of “if we burn, you burn with us.” The state agency also urged people to choose development over destruction and the rule of law over division.

“After all, upholding One Country, Two Systems and comprehensively and accurately implementing One Country, Two Systems, is the only place where Hong Kong’s bright future can be found,” the HKMAO wrote.

Select media outlets

Stand News reported that its journalists were barred from the coalition’s press conference on Tuesday, with the coalition’s staff members saying that the online news outlet was not on their invitation list. But other reporters at the scene said some journalists who did not have an invitation were allowed to enter.

When asked why there was a selective arrangement, a staffer reportedly said: “That reporter arrived very early, we found a seat, but now all seats are taken.”

HKFP’s request for an invitation did not receive a response on Tuesday.

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.