港澳辦設有八個局，負責處理香港和澳門事務。秘書局負責處理機關文電、會議、機要、檔案、信息化、安全保密、信訪、财務等機關行政事務和日常運轉工作；一局負責承擔落實中央港澳政策有關工作；二局承擔政治領域内地與特别行政區官方交往、因公往來、交流合作工作； 三局承擔經濟領域内地與特别行政區官方交往、因公往來、交流合作工作；四局承擔文化、教育、青年等領域内地與特别行政區官方交往、因公往來、交流合作工作；五局承擔醫療衛生、民族、宗教、勞工、社會服務等領域内地與特别行政區官方交往、因公往來、交流合作工作；六局負責承擔協調特别行政區開展維護國家安全有關工作；七局負責協調涉港澳宣傳工作，承擔港澳新聞機構駐内地記者站和記者管理工作，承擔新聞發布工作； 八局負責涉港澳有關法律法規草案起草和司法領域内地與特别行政區官方交往、因公往來、交流合作工作。
The new structure of HKMWO and its political implications
The reorganization of the Hong Kong Macau Work Office (HKMWO) under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been completed in late October 2023 by listing on its website not only the duties but also the responsibilities of ten bureaus. This article delineates the HKMWO’s new structure and examines its important implications for the central government’s policies toward Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions.
The website of the HKMWO lists the following duties.
First, it implements the principles of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong,” and “Macau people ruling Macau,” their high degree of autonomy, the governance of Hong Kong and Macau in accordance with the law, the implementation of the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong and Macau, “the patriots ruling Hong Kong and Macau,” the protection of the nation’s sovereignty, security and developmental interest, and the promotion of the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau.
Second, it strengthens the unified planning and coordination, the supervision over implementation, the organization of study and surveys on important questions, and the issuance of policy suggestions.
Third, it organizes studies and makes suggestions on draft law, statutes and legislation relating to Hong Kong and Macau, and submits proposals on the implementation of important law and on related legal questions pertinent to Hong Kong and Macau.
Fourth, it supports the chief executives and the governments of the special administrative regions to implement policies in accordance with the law, and to promote the construction and perfection of the system and mechanisms related to the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law.
Fifth, it studies and makes proposals on the perfection of the accountability of the chief executives to the central government, the improvement of the approval system and mechanism on the appointment and removal of chief executives and principal officials.
Sixth, it coordinates the study of relevant departments on the support and development of Hong Kong and Macau’s economy, on the protection of the people’s livelihood and on other related policy measures.
Seventh, it organizes the implementation of the legal system and of protecting national security in the special administrative regions.
Eighth, it coordinates the propaganda work of Hong Kong and Macau and manages in accordance with law the media organizations, stations and reporters who are from Hong Kong and Macau and who are based in the mainland.
Ninth, it helps the special administrative regions to strengthen not only the education on the Chinese constitution, the Basic Law, and the national security law, but also national education, Chinese history, Chinese cultural spirits and the consolidation of the national consciousness and patriotic spirit of the societies of Hong Kong and Macau.
Tenth, it is responsible for the official interactions and work relations between the mainland and the chief executives and the governments of the special administrative regions, coordinates and promotes the cooperation between relevant departments in the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau, directs and manages the official affairs between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macau, and makes suggestions and provides assistance to the mainland organs that are stationed in Hong Kong and Macau.
Numbers 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 have been mentioned by some Hong Kong media as the “new” duties delineated by the HKMWO.
Analytically speaking, the ten duties are aimed at realizing the central government’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and Macau. When the term “comprehensive jurisdiction” first appeared in the 2014 White Paper on the implementation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong, very few people understood what this concept really meant.
However, the concept of “comprehensive jurisdiction” can be interpreted as how China as the sovereign state of the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau has been exercising its sovereignty over the two cities particularly since the promulgation of the national security law in Hong Kong in late June 2020, and since the recent amendment of the national security law of Macau in May 2023 (the Macau national security law was enacted in 2009). The protection of national security of the central government is now embedded in duties numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9.
Duty number 9 focuses on the educational aspects of Hong Kong and Macau, which are expected and required to strengthen national education, national security education, Chinese history education, and Chinese cultural education. Education reform is seen as necessary to instil a much stronger sense of Chinese consciousness among the citizens of Hong Kong and Macau. In a sense, the educational reforms in Hong Kong since 2020 have been aiming at strengthening the national and cultural identity of the Hong Kong people.
Duties numbers 4, 5 and 6 are closely intertwined, firstly supporting the chief executives and governments of the two special administrative regions, secondly enhancing their accountability (including principal officials) to the central government, and thirdly consolidating the work on the promotion of economic prosperity and the people’s livelihood. These three duties are extremely important to the central government, especially in view of the chaos in Hong Kong during the latter half of 2019 and in view of the sluggishness of Macau in diversifying its economy away from its heavy dependence on the casino-driven and gaming-driven economy.
Duty number 8 is unique in the sense that the central government enhances publicity and propaganda work on the media organizations, stations and personnel from Hong Kong and Macau, pointing to stronger supervision and coordination work than ever before.
There are eight bureaus within the HKMWO in dealing with Hong Kong and Macau. A secretariat is dealing with minutes of meetings, documents, security issues, visits, and financial matters. Bureau 1 is responsible for implementing the central government’s policies on Hong Kong and Macau. Bureau 2 is dealing with the official interactions and collaboration in the political areas between the mainland and Hong Kong/Macau. Bureau 3 is coping with the official interactions and collaboration in the economic areas between the mainland and Hong Kong/Macau. Bureau 4 is focusing on the cultural, education and youth interactions between the mainland and Hong Kong/Macau. Bureau 5 is coping with public health, nationality affairs religions, labour and social service interactions between the mainland and Hong Kong/Macau. Bureau 6 is focusing on the coordination work with the two special administrative regions on the protection of national security. Bureau 7 is dealing with the publicity, propaganda work and liaison work on Hong Kong and Macau reporters and media organizations stationed in the mainland. Bureau 8 is specifically responsible for the drafting of law and legislation and judicial areas relating to the interactions between the mainland and Hong Kong/Macau.
From an organizational perspective, the restructuring of these bureaus and the delineations of their duties and responsibilities can help the implementation of the duties of the HKMWO effectively. As such, the restructuring of the HKMWO, including the recent move of bringing it directly under the Party, aims at strengthening the Party supervision, direction, and leadership of the HKMWO. Most importantly, the Party-state structures are now organizationally interwoven, making the Party-state’s policies on Hong Kong and Macau more effective in their implementation, review, improvement, and perfection. The concept of “comprehensive jurisdiction” is now fully realized and finalized through not only the interlocking relations between the Party and the HKMWO, but also the internal restructuring and reforms of the HKMWO.
In conclusion, the restructuring of the HKMWO can be seen as the realization of how the central government in Beijing enhances its “comprehensive jurisdiction” or sovereignty over Hong Kong and Macau. It can also be interpreted as the final stage of making the Party-state’s policies over Hong Kong and Macau, especially after mid-2020, far more effective in their implementation and reforms. It also makes the central authorities’ supervision over the chief executives and their governments of the two special administrative regions far more effective, while enhancing the accountability of the chief executives and their principal officials as well as the two governments to the central Party-state.
The reorganization and reclarification of the duties of the HKMWO are now very clear: while national security cuts through the essential duties of the Party-led HKMWO, the two special administrative regions are required to deal with national security education, national education, Chinese history education, Chinese cultural education, economic prosperity, and the people’s livelihood in a far more organized, coherent and effective manner than ever before. Similarly, the delineation of the duties of the eight bureaus within the HKMWO aim at making the implementation of the principles of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong,” “Macau people ruling Macau” and the patriots ruling the two special administrative regions far more effective than before. As such, the most recent restructuring of the HKMWO can be regarded as the finalization of the long process of realizing Beijing’s “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong and Macau.