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Beijing’s Carrot-and-Stick Approach to Hong Kong

 
 

On December 15,  Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam visited Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in order to give her annual work report to the central authorities. It was Lam’s first report to Beijing since she took office on July 1.

As The Diplomat has been following, Lam has gone through an eventful period during her five months in office. In September, for example, a series of disputes involving anti-China and pro-independence sentiments broke out in multiple universities in Hong Kong. These incidents not only further divided Hong Kong society but triggered controversies nationwide.

Despite these unpleasant incidents in Hong Kong earlier, the latest meetings between Lam and Beijing’s top leaders seemed quite pleasant in general.

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During the press conference, Lam told the media that Xi was “very polite.” After the official meeting, Xi invited Lam and her husband,  together with Chui Sai-on, Macao’s chief executive, and his wife for a meal (Chui also was in Beijing to give an annual report).

Yet during the official meeting, Xi didn’t forget to send a reminder to Hong Kong.

According to China’s state news agency, Xinhua, Xi told Lam that Beijing will “unswervingly” adhere to the “one country, two systems” policy.

“To do so, efforts must be made to combine the central government’s overall jurisdiction over the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region] and the high degree of autonomy of the region,” he said. “The Constitution and Hong Kong Basic Law should be strictly abided by.”

Besides the somewhat ambiguous warning, Xi also offered Hong Kong people some practical benefits.

Lam elaborated on these benefits during the later press conference. Specifically, China’s education ministry has agreed to issue special certificates to Hong Kong students who study in the Chinese mainland, so that these students will find it easier to stay in the mainland and seek jobs. Children born in Hong Kong and Macau will also be allowed to  receive free public school education in the mainland. Hong Kong people who work in the mainland will be allowed to join the Housing Provident Fund for homeownership, so that they will enjoy low interest rates just like other mainland residents when purchasing a property in the mainland. Hong Kong people will also be able to use their Hong Kong identity cards to board high speed trains in the mainland.

This policy is in line with what Xi emphasized in his work report, given during the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress.

In his speech, Xi said the central government will support Hong Kong as well Macau to fully get involved in the overall development of the whole country, promote the mainland’s cooperation with Hong Kong and Macau, and put forward policies to facilitate Hong Kong and Macau citizens’ contributions to developing the mainland.

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