Xi Wants “Patriotic” Hong Kong Politicians, a New Party Leaps at the Chance

During a video- call with Hong Kong Chief Executive , Xi Jinping announced that “Hong Kong must always be governed by patriots.” Xi’s demand for “patriotic” politicians mirrored mainland calls that Hong Kong’s education system become more patriotic, which only intensified after the 2020 passage of the National Security Law (NSL). Earlier this month, the Hong Kong government arrested every single pro-democracy candidate for upcoming LegCo elections and charged them with “subversion” under the NSL. At the South China Morning Post, Tony Cheung, William Zheng and Lilian Cheng reported on Xi’s insistence on “patriotism” within Hong Kong’s government:

[…] “The central government’s comprehensive jurisdiction over Hong Kong can be effectively implemented, the constitutional order established by the constitution and the Basic Law can be effectively safeguarded … only when we achieve ‘patriots governing Hong Kong’,” [Xi] said.

Xi stressed the principle was a precondition for resolving deep-seated problems in the city and fostering “its contribution to the realisation of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

[…] Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, said he believed that patriotic legislators and district councillors must become the main body governing Hong Kong and the principle could be extended to the Election Committee that selected the chief executive.

“The government already confirmed that district councillors will soon be required to pledge allegiance to the city and President Xi was just reiterating this idea, in which no one else but patriots can run the administration,” Tam said. [Source]

 

One mysterious new political party is positioning itself to answer Xi’s call. The Bauhinia Party, named after the orchid which graces Hong Kong’s flag, was founded by three mainland Chinese businessmen who are permanent residents of Hong Kong. The Bauhinia Party was founded on a cruise of Victoria Harbor in a direct nod to the Chinese Communist Party’s own apocryphal founding on a boat in Nanhu Lake on the mainland. The party’s platform is a hodgepodge mix of anodyne calls for unity, the continuation of One Country, Two Systems, and proposals to replace the LegCo, the city’s main legislative body, with a mainland-style “consultative” system. At Bloomberg News, Kari Soo Lindberg profiled the party’s political positions, many of which overlap with those of the Chinese government:

The party’s purpose, he added, was to support people to stand for the position of chief executive, which will be up for grabs next year when Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s first term expires. One possibility is Li Shan, the party’s chairman, who is chief executive of Silk Road Finance Corp. Ltd., a board member of Credit Suisse AG and a delegate to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to Beijing. Li declined an interview request.

[…] Wong said the root causes of the 2019 unrest had “nothing to do with China” while pointing to factors such as high-priced housing, poor local governance and an opposition he said was “tearing apart the social fabric and getting everybody angry.” The national security law, he added, was “timely to help stabilize Hong Kong” and had no impact on “one country, two systems” — the framework that guaranteed the territory’s autonomy for 50 years after Britain handed over the former colony in 1997.

[…] Wong said the party aims to eventually have as many as 250,000 members. He added that the party’s communication with China’s government would likely be “quite fluid,” while saying it was “silly” that critics said it had Beijing’s backing.

“A lot of people try to pin us down as to whether we are from China,” Wong said. “I think they really miss the point. We should look at whether we are for Hong Kong or not. And China is there to help, but there are bottom lines, there are red lines.” [Source]

In an interview with the South China Morning Post’s , Bauhinia Party co-founder Charles Wong was similarly evasive about his party’s relationship with the Chinese Communist Party:

Both Li and Chen are delegates to the nation’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which sparked rumours the new party was supported by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong. But Wong said that was the “wrong way” to look at the matter, as the central question was whether the party had the backing of residents.

[…] “It’s just normal, and we have communications with the Hong Kong government and we also have communications with some key individuals and different political parties,” he said. “Our consultation in forming a party was quite comprehensive.”

[…] Regarding suspicions its members belonged to the , Wong said: “It’s not correct to judge our party [on] whether we have underground members or not. And we never really asked our members whether you are underground [members] or not. We just look at whether you’re Hongkongers and do you want to do things for Hong Kong?” [Source]

At The Times, Keith Bradsher and Vivian Wang reported on Hong Kong’s already established pro-Beijing parties’ wariness of the political newcomers:

But the news was equally, if not more, unsettling for Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing bloc, the coalition of local business tycoons, established politicians and unions that has long been allowed to govern as the central government’s proxy. Many have wondered if the emergence of the new party is Beijing’s signal that it has less use for those traditional power brokers and may replace them with figures deemed more effective or trustworthy.

[…] Central planks of the party’s platform include combating discrimination against mainland transplants to Hong Kong and fostering a love of Chinese and culture. Mr. Li said he wants to encourage more Hong Kong students to study at mainland universities and undergo “patriotic education,” an echo of Mr. Xi’s own calls for young Hong Kongers to “increase their sense of belonging to the motherland.”

[…] “I don’t think he begins to understand how complex the job is,” [Regina , the founder of another pro-Beijing party] said of Mr. Li’s hints about running for chief executive. “If you have some financial credentials, it doesn’t mean you are qualified.”

Mr. Li acknowledged that he was not fluent in Hong Kong politics, despite his long residence in the city. He said he had never voted until late 2019. Asked about his position on a contentious proposal to allow Hong Kong residents living in mainland China to vote in the city’s elections, he said he had not heard of the issue. [Source]

At The Washington Post, Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu reported that the internecine conflict between the Bauhinia Party and other pro-Beijing outfits might already be rendered moot by the ascension of the Chinese government’s Hong Kong Liaison Office:

Sitting apart from this bickering is the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, sometimes described as a shadow government pulling the strings. Last January, Beijing suddenly appointed Luo Huining, a mainland party cadre whom it called out of semi-retirement, as its new chief. The following month China named Xia Baolong, an official known for tearing crosses off church roofs in China, to head its Beijing-based Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office.

[…] Ho-fung Hung, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who studies Hong Kong politics, notes that the liaison office’s role has been expanding for years, coordinating election campaigns on behalf of the establishment camp, commenting openly on local political issues and visiting ordinary citizens.

“The perception is it has been coming to the fore as the true power center of Hong Kong,” Hung said. [Source]

Recent personnel moves have added to the perception that Beijing is increasingly assuming direct control of Hong Kong’s government. At the South China Post, William Zheng reported on the appointment of Shi Kehui, who worked closely with key Xi allies, to the central government-controlled Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office:

Shi spent most of his career in Zhejiang province, including a spell as secretary to the former party chief Zhao Hongzhu. Zhao succeeded Xi Jinping in the role after the latter was transferred to Shanghai.

[…] Shi was transferred to the CCDI in and was soon promoted to become deputy secretary general and director of the commission’s general office, working under Wang Qishan, now China’s vice-president. He was appointed as Guangdong’s disciplinary chief in 2017.

[…] According to Li Xiaobing, an associate law professor and Hong Kong affairs specialist at Nankai University in , Shi’s appointment underlines Beijing’s caution in selecting officials responsible for Hong Kong and Macau affairs. [Source]

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