Top Beijing official to gauge tycoons’ views on economy, meet legal professional bodies over Article 23 bill during Hong Kong visit, sources say

Top Beijing official Xia Baolong will meet tycoons and other business leaders to gauge their views on the city’s economic prospects and discuss the proposed domestic national security law with legal professional bodies during his visit to Hong Kong later this week, the Post has learned.

Xia, who heads the revamped Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO), will begin his six-day trip on Thursday, according to multiple insiders. They said on Tuesday he was also due to spend time meeting residents at a teahouse, visiting districts and talking with young people.

Heavyweights who were expected to take part in the discussions and political observers said the visit came at a crucial time as it would ease people’s concerns over the sluggish economy and the proposed security law.

HKMAO director Xia Baolong (left) is expected to meet tycoons and other business leaders during to his visit to the city. Photo: Jelly Tse

“It is good that Xia is gathering views from different sectors at such a time, when people are having a certain sense of confidence issues due to the sluggish economy and high interest-rate environment,” one tycoon told the Post.

“By coming to the city, I believe the Beijing official can see for himself the real picture and have time to discuss with the chief executive and his officials on how to take things forward and ensure the city is back on track.”

Apart from meeting city leader John Lee Ka-chiu and his ministers, high on Xia’s agenda would be a closed-door exchange with a “select list” of tycoons and business representatives on Friday afternoon.

Head of Beijing office overseeing Hong Kong affairs to make fact-finding visit

“The invitees were told to share views specifically about Hong Kong’s business environment and economic prospects this year amid challenges, including geopolitical headwinds,” an insider familiar with the matter said.

Xia is expected to meet professional bodies and their heads, including Bar Association chairman Victor Dawes, on Sunday, and discuss the proposed national security law required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, according to sources. The consultation period for the legislation ends on Wednesday next week.

Lee has repeatedly stressed the legislation would ensure a safe and stable environment that was “no doubt beneficial to businesses” and the sooner the city could complete the legislation, the sooner it could concentrate on developing the economy and improving people’s livelihood.

The government intends to pass the bill, which will sit alongside the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 following anti-government protests, before the end of the year.

Xia Baolong is set to spend time meeting residents and talking with young people. Photo: Dickson Lee

Xia was also expected to meet members of the key decision-making Executive Council and legislature, with lawmakers being asked to “reserve time” for the discussions. Other tentative items on his itinerary include meeting residents at a Chinese teahouse and exchanges with young people.

Lee on Tuesday stopped short of confirming Xia’s visit, but said central government officials had always been very concerned with Hong Kong affairs, and he maintained “smooth” communication with them.

He recalled that during his two duty visits in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top officials stressed the great importance they attached to Hong Kong’s economic development and the improvement of people’s livelihood.

Sources said Xia’s visit would be similar to one he made last April, which analysts dubbed “an inspection trip” that demonstrated Beijing’s greater emphasis on in-depth research carried out on the ground and aimed at improving administration governance.

Beijing ‘expressed confidence in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon arts hub’

During that trip, Xia made a public speech urging the city to focus on achieving new economic ambitions. He said he hoped that “Hong Kong will hold conventions and exhibitions every day, engage in innovation and technology, and fight for the economy”.

Residents should also enjoy “horse racing, dancing, speculating on stocks and making big money”, he said, referencing a famous quote from late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping who promised that “horse racing will continue, dancing parties will go on” as he vowed that Hong Kong’s capitalist ways would remain unchanged after the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant for Beijing’s semi-official think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said visits by HKMAO officials would likely become regular since many local problems could only be solved by the efforts of both the city and central governments.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday said he maintained “smooth” communication with central government officials. Photo: May Tse

The veteran political observer also described the time Xia had chosen to visit Hong Kong as “opportune”. The trip will end one day before the close of the public consultation period for the Article 23 legislation and the release of the budget.

“Xia will convey the central government’s position on the Article 23 legislation and refute criticism from hostile forces,” he said. “His assurances will be more conducive to alleviating the doubts and worries of all parties, especially foreign businesspeople.”

Article 23 of the Basic Law requires the city to enact its own laws to prohibit seven types of offences, including treason, espionage and theft of state secrets.

Hong Kong incoming district councillors urged to put greater good first

Lau also expected Xia to put forward the central government’s opinions and suggestions to ensure that Hong Kong could continue to safeguard national security, maintain its stability and promote the economy in difficult times.

John Burns, honorary professor at the department of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong, said the timing of Xia’s visit signalled the importance Beijing placed on national security and economic development in Hong Kong.

“We can expect more high-level visits to impress upon the local community the urgency of central government concerns,” he said.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.