China is expected to unveil new political controls over Hong Kong at this week’s meeting of its official parliament, which is also likely to show President Xi Jinping’s greatest consolidation of power.
Beijing plans to ensure that only “patriots,” those loyal to the Communist Party, can rule Hong Kong, according to a speech by a senior Chinese official before the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC).
The meeting serves as an important display of power and policy shifts within China’s opaque one-party system, although the thousands of delegates have little to say about the laws they pass and the discussions are largely political theater.
The national security law, which has been used to muzzle Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, was announced in the NPC last year.
That session was delayed from its usual early March date as China struggled to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the NPC and its advisory body will meet as scheduled, albeit for fewer days than usual, and will promote an official narrative of triumph over the Coronavirus and economic success.
China has largely managed to contain Covid-19 within its borders, through strict closures and controls on international travelers. It has developed its own vaccines, which it is using as part of a global diplomatic push to bolster its influence.
It was also one of the few countries in the world to officially register economic growth in 2020, and recently claimed to have ended “extreme poverty” at home.
But Beijing’s domestic triumphs come at a time of increasing pressure from Western powers on authoritarian policies in the country, its handling of the early days of the pandemic and subsequent investigations into the origins of Covid-19, and its behavior. aggressively expansionist in the disputed regions, the border. territories and to Taiwan.
Diplomatic and trade sanctions have accumulated against Beijing for its intervention in Hong Kong and human rights abuses in western Xinjiang. Officials have also expressed concern about the repression and mass arrests of national lawyers.
These are likely to be exacerbated by the new policies on Hong Kong unveiled at this year’s NPC.
In a speech published this week, the head of the Hong Kong and Macao affairs bureau, Xia Baolong, said the city’s electoral system had to be “improved”, to close the loopholes and ensure the “comprehensive management of Hong Kong. Kong by the central government. “
Anonymous government sources have told the media that the changes are likely to alter the process of the two elections to the city’s Legislative Council and the composition of the committee to elect the city’s leader, known as the executive director.
Currently, the committee includes district councilors, the majority of pro-democracy parties that won a landslide victory in the November 2019 elections.. The marked changes have caused concern even among some pro-Beijing politicians.
“Don’t go too far and kill the patient,” Shiu Sin-por, a pro-Beijing politician and former head of Hong Kong’s Central Policy Unit, told reporters after a briefing on the matter.
The “two sessions” are also being watched closely for details on how President Xi Jinping, already considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has cemented both his personal power and his place in the communist pantheon.
“The most important significance of the two sessions for China’s political life may be to observe the consolidation of Xi’s rights, the totalitarianism of China’s politics and China’s reaction to the surrounding problems and the security environment,” he said Wu Qiang, a former political speaker. at the prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing.
They come at a time of great focus on legacy as Beijing prepares to celebrate the centennial of the Chinese Communist Party in July, though no major announcements are expected.
“Not that anything is making us stifle a collective gasp, but it is important because it gives you an idea of the leadership priorities and the language they are using… and how much Xi is getting even higher. in rhetoric, ”said law professor Margaret Lewis, a China specialist at Seton Hall.
The most viewed part of the agenda is usually the GDP growth target report, but none was given in 2020 and sources told Reuters there would be none this year either.
However, the APN will witness the launch of the fourteenth “five-year plan”, which sets the medium-term agenda for the national economy. Outlines released after planning sessions in October indicated a focus on trying to replace lost international trade with higher domestic demand, although the government has been trying to boost consumption in the country for years with mixed success.
As China faces a social and economic crisis with its aging population, state officials have already outlined plans for a new pension system, which could be announced, along with possible delays in the legal retirement age.
Raising the retirement age was a necessary but politically risky move that threatened to upset the party’s base of support among retired party cadres and officials, said Carl Mizner, a law professor at Fordham University.
“They have been kicking this can into the future for a couple of years,” he told The Guardian. “There are pressing financial pressures they face and they have to address … But it is politically difficult in China, as much as anywhere else.”
Eyes will also be on the attendance of China’s tech industry elite at their first meeting since authorities tightened regulation and began targeting monopoly behavior.
Xi also made important environmental pledges and state officials promised amendments to animal protection laws, following a ban on the illegal consumption of wildlife.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism