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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Top Chinese official for Hong Kong signals more changes to law

China’s moves came in the wake of historic pro-democracy demonstrations that rocked the city last year.

By: Bloomberg | November 17, 2020 10:15:51 am
Vehicles travel past a government-sponsored advertisement promoting a new national security law China plans to enact in Hong Kong billboard in Hong Kong (Photographer: Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

China signaled further changes to Hong Kong law, in the wake of moves by Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law and require loyalty from city lawmakers.

Zhang Xiaoming, a deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, made his remarks Tuesday on a seminar to mark the 30th anniversary of the Hong Kong Basic Law. The so-called mini-constitution was drafted to maintain a “high degree of autonomy” for the former British colony for at least 50 years after its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

“We need to see the Basic Law as a law that is alive,” Zhang said. “By interpreting the Basic Law, it can expand applicability of the law. Outside of the Basic Law, it is also necessary to identify ways to continuously optimize systems in relation to the Basic Law.”

The Legislative Council loyalty clause added to the questions about Beijing’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy, after the enactment in June of the controversial security legislation. The city’s “one country, two systems” framework, which guarantees an independent judiciary and capitalist financial system, has been credited with preserving its status as a global financial hub.

China’s moves came in the wake of historic pro-democracy demonstrations that rocked the city last year. While the rallies have all but ground to a halt, people in the city have found other ways to protest, including by patronizing so-called “yellow” businesses sympathetic to the democracy cause.

Zhang listed such tactics in his remarks as something the government aimed to stop. If there are no street “riots or filibustering in the Legislative Council, citizens will not need to worry about ‘yellow’ or ‘blue’ when going to restaurants. Everyone can enjoy freedom without fear,” he said.

Still, Zhang said China would continue to preserve capitalism in the Asian financial hub.

“We need to respect capitalism in Hong Kong, and at the same time, respect socialism in mainland China,” he said. “We understand that Hong Kong has many international competitive advantages. But we also need to recognize that Hong Kong’s development is increasingly dependent and benefits from the mainland.”

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