China’s top office on Hong Kong affairs will directly report to the central leadership of the Communist Party and be given the duty to supervise a wide scope of policies, including “safeguarding national security” and “exercising the Central Authorities’ overall jurisdiction” over the city.

File photo: GovHK.

According to the proposal from Beijing released on Thursday, a new office will be formed on the basis of the existing Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) led by Xia Baolong, and will function as a working body of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee.

The restructured office will report directly to the Communist Party’s Central Committee – its highest organ of authority – instead of the State Council, the Central Committee’s executive limb.

Called the Hong Kong and Macao Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, it can also be referred to as the HKMAO.

The reformed office will be responsible for “the investigation, research, co-ordination and supervision of upholding the principle of ‘one country, two systems’, exercising the Central Authorities’ overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR, governing Hong Kong and Macao in accordance with the law, safeguarding national security, protecting people’s livelihood and well-being, and supporting the integration of Hong Kong and Macao into the national development.”

Hong Kong leader John Lee at the Two Sessions meeting in Beijing in March, 2023. Photo: GovHK.

It was not stated in the HKMAO’s current list of functions that it could supervise the enactment of policies in Hong Kong or Macau.

According to the proposal, Beijing will “strive to” complete the restructuring by the end of 2023.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee said in a Thursday night statement that he thought the proposed restructuring of the HKMAO “fully demonstrates the Central Authorities’ resolute, full and faithful implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, laying a more solid foundation for the steadfast and successful implementation of it.”

“The Central Authorities always serve the best interests of Hong Kong and its citizens,” the city’s leader added.

In two separate press releases, the HKMAO and Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong both said they “resolutely support” the plan, adding that the new working body would be beneficial for the implementation of One Country, Two Systems.

Starry Lee. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, Starry Lee, who recently became the city’s only representative in China’s top legislative body, said she felt the HKMAO was “promoted” because the central authorities placed high importance in Hong Kong and Macau affairs.

When asked if putting the office directly under the Communist Party would cast doubts over One Country, Two Systems, the chairperson of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party DAB said Xi Jinping had repeatedly said on various occasions that Beijing supported the continuous implementation of One Country, Two Systems.

“I’m not very much in line with your interpretation,” Lee told the reporter,” I think the move this time certainly demonstrates that the central authorities further raised the importance of its work on Hong Kong and Macau.”

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.