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China Communist Party has Hong Kong in crosshairs

Chinese President and CCP party leader Xi Jinping
Chinese President and CCP party leader Xi Jinping Reuters

China's Communist Party says it will continue to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy but expressed impatience with the ongoing unrest at the end of a full session, or Plenum, of its 371 member Central Committee in Beijing.

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In a statement, the party said it will protect the "stability" of Hong Kong, which has been rocked by months of unrest.

Led by the Party’s 25-member Politburo, a Central Committee plenum is a closed-door meeting of high-ranking officials where the country's future direction is discussed. This week's meeting was the first since February 2018.

In his concluding speech, CPP Secretary Xi Jinping, who doubles as the country’s President, highlighted the achievements of two of his four illustrious predecessors Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, but did not mention the other two, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, the last one being China’s president until 2012.

“Xi Jinping sees himself as somebody comparable to at least Deng Xiaoping and to Mao Zedong, but not really to the likes of either Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao,” says Steve Tsang, Director of the China Institute of the School for Oriental and African Studies (Soas) in London.

Historically, party plenums take place on a yearly basis, mostly in October, and only after its members have solved their differences so they can come up with a unified statement.

This time there was a gap of twenty months.

“The timing of the Fourth Plenum itself is not exceptional,” says Tsang. What was exceptional was the timing of the Third Plenum. That was held much earlier in order to enable Xi Jinping to consolidate his condition within the Party.

The meeting was fast-forwarded to February and Xi Jinping abolished limits for the Presidency, making him China’s President for life, just in time for the yearly session of the National People’s Congress, China’s nominal parliament, to rubber-stamp the decision.

Meanwhile, through a harsh anti-corruption campaign, Xi managed to rid himself of his main opponents and heads the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo – the most powerful political body in China – that also includes six of his most loyal followers.

Xi Jinping “managed to consolidate his power. And yet, two years on, he is still consolidating more of his power. It really makes you wonder: will he ever stop?” says Tsang.

The CCP has Hong Kong in the crosshairs

Just after the CCP Plenum was finished, Shen Qunyao, the Head of the National People’s Congress Committee overseeing the Basic Law of Hong Kong, said in a press conference after the Plenum in Beijing that China “will boost efforts to safeguard national security in Hong Kong.

His remarks come after months of increasingly violent demonstrations in the territory.

“It means that the Chinese government is determined to persist in a policy which may well end up with a tragedy in Hong Kong,” says Tsang.

“It reflects a complete refusal on the part of the Chinese leadership to see the reality in Hong Kong and acknowledge that the problems in Hong Kong are largely the result of a misguided policy on the part of Beijing under the leadership of Xi Jinping," he adds.

The leadership agrees to redouble their efforts in implementing a policy that caused the problems in the first instance, thinking that this would therefore solve the problems, says Tsang.

"Which is a rather extraordinary way of looking at how to deal with their problem that they created in the first instance," he adds.

Patriotic education

National People’s Congress Committee head Qunyao also stressed the importance of stepping up so-called “patriotic education,” especially among civil servants and young people, aimed at impregnating them with the “values of China’s Communist Party” and “Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” ideas that often conflict with the liberal ideas.

It was the very idea of introducing “Patriotic Education” that created a new generation of very young protesters in Hong Kong.

The leading light of Hong Kong’s protest these days, Joshua Wong – who was earlier this week banned from presenting himself as a candidate for Hong Kong’s elections - , was himself a high school student when the original Patriotic Education Campaign was introduced.

“It really created problems which became much more serious as the years went by," says Tsang.

"Now they would like to make sure that they go back to it more strenuously, and expect that this would resolve the problem. It is going to take a lot more than this to deal with the issues in Hong Kong," he adds.

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