Highlights of Two Sessions: Implications for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
The two sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have important implications for the development of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
In terms of leadership renewal and change, the most significant highlight was that President Xi Jinping acquired the full 2,977 votes from the delegates to continue to be not only the President but also the Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Such voting results mean that the legitimacy, mandate and popularity of President Xi Jinping are unprecedentedly and unanimously high.
Secondly, Han Zheng was elected as the Vice President while Zhao Leji was elected as the Chairperson of the NPC. Han Zheng in the past served in the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao administration and his contribution to the work on Hong Kong and Macau during the President Xi Jinping era has been tremendous. Zhao Leji was secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Committee, contributing immensely to China’s anticorruption drive and campaign. As such, the two’s elections as the Vice President and the NPC Chair were understandable and showed their high degree of legitimacy and popularity.
Third, another important elite elected as the Chairman of the CPPCC is Wang Huning, who is an influential political theorist serving the administration under the leadership of Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping. Most significantly, Wang is the architect of the central government’s policy toward Taiwan. As Beijing is now emphasizing the usage of the Taiwan model of “one country, two systems” to deal with Taiwan’s political future, Wang’s new position as the CPPCC chairperson has the immediate significance of formulating and implementing the policy of winning the hearts and minds of more Taiwan people, wooing them to have dialogue so long as they support the 1992 consensus. It remains to be seen how the Taiwan model of “one country, two systems” will continue to be “explored” and developed under the leadership and thought of Wang Huning.
Fourth, fourteen persons were elected as the deputy chairs of the NPC; nevertheless, Li Hongzhong got one vote against him and one vote of abstention – a phenomenon showing that, amid the practice of democratic centralism, some degree of democratic element could be seen in a tiny minority of dissent.
Fifth, among the CPPCC vice chairpersons, C. Y. Leung from Hong Kong and Edmund Ho Hau-wah from Macau were reelected. Former vice chair Tung Chee-hwa was not on the list of candidates, while former Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was also not on the list of candidates. This meant that it is not really a constitutional practice for the former chief executives of Hong Kong and Macau to be selected and elected as the vice chairs of the CPPCC – a situation contingent on several main factors, including the political weight, previous track record and contribution, personal preference and the health condition of the former chief executives concerned.
Sixth, with the stepping down of Tam Yiu-chung from the NPC Standing Committee, a younger Hong Kong NPC member, namely Starry Lee Wai-king of the loyalist Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), has been elected as the new member of the NPC Standing Committee. Her previous work in the DAB, Legislative Council and Executive Council was undoubtedly the consideration made by the central authorities.
Once she was elected as a new member of the NPC Standing Committee, some voices in Hong Kong pointed to her need to abandon her re-election bid in the next District Council elections – a point showing that some DAB members appeared to eye for district-level political position. It seems logical that Starry Lee would have no need to run again in the upcoming District Council election, if it will perhaps be held next year after a kind of reform most likely in the form of reinjecting appointed seats and some appointed members from Mutual Aid Committees, Fight Crime Committees and Fire Prevention Committees at the district level.
The most significant remarks on Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were made by a whole array of central authorities, including Hong Kong Macau Affairs Office director Xia Baolong, vice minister of State Council and information spokesman Guo Weimin, outgoing NPC Standing Committee chair Lu Zhanshu, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang, outgoing CPPCC chair Wang Yang, and the incoming CPPCC chair Wang Huning.
On March 3, Xia Baolong said Hong Kong and Macau CPPCC members should develop their “double positive functions” of maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of the two places and promoting the implementation of “one country, two systems” to realize the contributions to the Chinese renaissance. He also remarked that the CPPCC members from Hong Kong and Macau should elevate their quality of political deliberation and discussions.
Obviously, Xia’s comments emphasized the importance of CPPCC members from Hong Kong and Macau to engage in political discourse, whose standards have to be elevated, and to contribute to the development of “one country, two systems” in both places.
On the same day, Guo Weimin added that mainland China resolutely opposes “Taiwan independence” and external intervention. Moreover, the members of the CPPCC should adopt an attitude of treating two straits as “one family,” fostering the interactions and exchange between the two straits, enhancing the communication with the Taiwan people. In other words, mainland China is going to promote human interactions with Taiwan in the post-Covid era, propelling the development of peaceful development of the two straits, promoting integration and development, uniting the Taiwan comrades, and pushing forward the process of national reunification as well as achieving the objective of Chinese renaissance.
Guo’s comments were clearly directed at Taiwan, showing that Beijing is going to enhance its united front work on the people of Taiwan and promote human and economic as well as cultural integration with Taiwan from now leading to the Taiwan presidential election in January 2024.
On March 7, Lu Zhanshu said that the national security law was pivotal in maintaining stability of Hong Kong and that it also provides the necessary legal safeguard for Hong Kong to undergo the transition from chaos to governance, and from governance to prosperity. Lu’s comments were a summary of the important contribution of the national security law to the social stability of Hong Kong, which is now expected to do more in improving the people’s livelihood for the sake of maintaining prosperity.
Li Keqiang’s comments on Hong Kong and Macau were brief, saying that the principles of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong,” “Macau people ruling Macau,” and “a high degree of autonomy” have to be accurately implemented, together with the tenets of governing Hong Kong and Macau in accordance with the law and of realizing the patriots to rule the two special administrative regions. His comments on the need for Hong Kong and Macau to develop the economy, improve the people’s livelihood, and to maintain long-term prosperity and stability demonstrated the former Premier’s pragmatism. In fact, the central government has remained very pragmatic in dealing with the development of Hong Kong and Macau.
Wang Yang’s comments on Hong Kong and Macau focus on the consolidation of the patriotic forces in governing Hong Kong and Macau, the promotion of the two places’ integration with and construction of the Greater Bay Area, and support of the central government’s revamp of the electoral system of Hong Kong. Moreover, Wang said that the Hong Kong and Macau members of the CPPCC should actively participate in the forums of the two straits and enhance their interaction and communication with the people of Taiwan, including those with party affiliations. Finally, he encouraged the Hong Kong and Macau members of the CPPCC to coordinate and communicate with the overseas Chinese on the construction of and participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. Clearly, Wang’s comments were directed at how Hong Kong and Macau should contribute to their integration with the Greater Bay Area and how CPPCC members should play the role of united front actors in communicating with overseas Chinese and Taiwanese.
Finally, Wang Huning on March 8 told the Hong Kong and Macau CPPCC members to take the leadership in their thinking, telling the people inside and outside China about the good story of the “one country, two systems.” Furthermore, they should also actively implement the “one country, two systems,” promote national security, collectively develop the economy, promote the Greater Bay Area construction, and look for developmental momentum and solve the problems of the people’s livelihood. Wang’s remarks not only echoed Wang Yang, but also asked the Hong Kong and Macau members of the CPPCC to act as “diplomats” publicizing the “one country, two systems” not just internally in Hong Kong and Macau but also in overseas countries and among the overseas Chinese diaspora.
In conclusion, the two NPC and CPPCC sessions have important implications for the development of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. While leadership consolidation and renewal in the central government have been completed with a high degree of legitimacy, popularity and mandate with the feature of Chinese democratic centralism at work, central authorities have emphasized how the national security law has been contributing to the stability of Hong Kong, how the Hong Kong and Macau members of the CPPCC should do more in terms of publicizing the “one country, two systems” to the overseas community, how they should contribute to the mainland’s work on Taiwan through enhanced communication and interaction with the Taiwan people, and the need for Hong Kong and Macau to focus on the improvement of the economy and the people’s livelihood.
Pragmatism in command is clearly the hallmark of the central government’s policy toward both Hong Kong and Macau during the two NPC and CPPCC sessions in March 2023. In the current transition to the occurrence of the Taiwan presidential election in January 2024, Beijing’s policy is to enhance human and economic and cultural interactions with Taiwan – a kind of communicative outreach that is natural, necessary and healthy in the post-Covid era during which the relations between the two straits were stalled.