A top Beijing official has told Hong Kong deputies to China’s top lawmaking body that they should “preach the spirit of the central government” and lead efforts to protect national security.

Zhao Leji
Zhao Leji, current Communist Party of China’s Politburo Standing Committee member. File photo: Wang Zhao/AFP.

The city’s deputies to the National People’s Congress (NPC) held a virtual press conference on Tuesday to discuss their meeting with Zhao Leji, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee.

Leading the delegation, Ma Fung-kwok said Zhao described Hong Kong as having gone through “a major turning point” in the past few years. The contributions of the city’s government were “groundbreaking and symbolic,” Ma, who is also a lawmaker, quoted Zhao as saying.

The meeting took place on the fourth day of China’s Two Sessions, an annual political assembly that sees the gathering of the NPC and Beijing’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Ma said Zhao spoke of his “hopes” for the deputies, including that they “preach the spirit of the central government,” lead the way in “resolutely protecting” national security and oppose “all words and actions that intervene on and damage the stability of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.”

“[Zhao] said the coming five years will be crucial to Hong Kong’s development and asked that we work hard, be persistent, and realise the pursuits of a strong country,” Ma said, adding that Zhao called on Hong Kong to make “breakthroughs” in tackling governance and development challenges.

Priscilla Leung, also an NPC member, said she “felt deeply that the country cares very much about and is supportive of Hong Kong’s development.”

‘The new era’

Ma said he was among the six Hong Kong NPC delegates who presented speeches before Zhao in the meeting.

Starry Lee
DAB chairperson Starry Lee attending a Legislative Council chief executive Q&A session on July 6, 2022. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Lawmaker Starry Lee said that during her turn, she talked about the need to “strictly implement” the patriots-only rule, referring to a new electoral system implemented in the wake of the protests in 2019.

She added that Zhao had “encouraged” the deputies to “make use of this golden opportunity to further develop our economy,” as well as “mentioned to us what Hong Kong should do in the new era.”

A total of 36 Hong Kong deputies – including lawmakers and political heavyweights – are members of the NPC, elected in polls in December.

The Two Sessions began on Sunday, with outgoing Premier Li Keqiang stressing on the first day that Hong Kong’s “long-term prosperity and stability” must be maintained.

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

Chief Executive John Lee, who attended the opening ceremony of the meetings in Beijing, said he hoped Hong Kong people would pay attention to the Two Sessions.

The Two Sessions are expected to last around 10 days and culminate in leader Xi Jinping securing a third term as China’s president.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.