Bloomberg News May 22, 2020, 5:08 PM GMT+8
- ‘Xi feels threatened, the leadership feels threatened’
- Xi’s government abandons growth target, vows stimulus
On the first day of China’s biggest political event of the year, Xi Jinping sent a clear message to Donald Trump: We’re going to do what we want in Hong Kong, and we’re not scared of the consequences.
China confirmed on Friday that it would effectively bypass the city’s legislature to implement national security laws, which have long been resisted by residents who fear they will erode freedoms of speech, assembly and the press. The announcement, which came on the same day China refrained from setting an economic growth target for the first time in decades, triggered immediate calls for fresh protests and sent the MSCI Hong Kong index to its worst loss since 2008.
For Xi, the move allows Beijing to reassert dominance over a piece of Chinese territory where his government was rendered impotent during sometimes-violent protests last year. Facing rising unemployment in the mainland due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the potential for a big loss in Hong Kong legislative elections set for September, the Communist Party decided it had more to gain by acting decisively to stem any potential threats.
“Xi feels threatened, the leadership feels threatened — this is a crisis,” said David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Ltd. “This is, ‘We’re not going to give an inch, we’re going to tighten up, and Hong Kong’s national security as a potential subversive center is greater than its economic value.’”
HONG KONG—China’s government plans to let mainland state-security agencies operate officially in Hong Kong, a senior Chinese official said Friday, adding to concerns about the city’s diminishing autonomy as Beijing steps up its efforts to rein in the protest-torn city.
Surprise plans for Beijing to impose national-security laws on Hong Kong have already stirred up considerable concern in the largely self-administered Chinese territory. Beijing officials first mentioned the plans on Thursday, saying the measures are needed for punishing what they called acts of separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.
Wang Chen, a senior official at China’s legislature, added to those fears, saying the unrest that has rocked Hong Kong since last year has “severely threatened China’s sovereignty,” which demands a national-level response, according to footage published by state broadcaster China Central Television.
“A glaring problem at the moment is the threat to national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which grows clearer by the day,” Mr. Wang said on Friday, the opening day of China’s annual parliamentary session in Beijing.
BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese Premier Li Keqiang left out the word “peaceful” on Friday in referring to Beijing’s desire to “reunify” with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, an apparent policy shift that comes as ties with Taipei continue on a downward spiral.
Taiwan has complained of increased Chinese military harassment since the coronavirus pandemic began, with fighter jets and naval vessels regularly approaching the island on drills China has described as routine.
China says Taiwan is its most sensitive and important territorial issue, and has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a Chinese province under its control, making the Taiwan Strait a potential military flashpoint.
Li, in his state-of-the-nation work report at the start of the annual meeting of China’s parliament, said his country would “resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence”.
China will improve policies and measures to encourage exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait, and protect the well-being of Taiwan’s people, he added.
“We will encourage them to join us in opposing Taiwan independence and promoting China’s reunification,” Li said. “With these efforts, we can surely create a beautiful future for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”