Senior Beijing officials have urged Hongkongers from all walks of life to play a more active role in supporting the city’s integration with mainland China and instilling a sense of national identity among the younger generation.
Lu Xinning, a deputy director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, sought to rally residents behind the nation at a Communist Party event on Friday that coincided with Liu Guangyuan, the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong commissioner, issuing a fresh warning against foreign interference in the city.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a photo exhibition marking the party’s 100th anniversary this year, Lu said there was an urgent need to address a lack of national pride in the city, particularly among young people.
“Apart from only saying that Hong Kong is ‘my city’, people in Hong Kong need to be taught a Chinese history lesson to reconstruct the concept of nationhood so they identify China as ‘my country’,” Lu said.
“By giving young people the ability to distinguish right from wrong, we can minimise the possibility of them going astray.”
The event at the Central Library was attended by Liu and city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who in her policy address this week said that despite progress the city’s to-do list for safeguarding national security remained “substantial”.
At a separate meeting with dozens of business and community leaders, Liu was critical of the United States’ approach to Hong Kong, under which he said it claimed to stand up for Hongkongers while at the same time “wielding the rod of sanctions”.
The central government would fully support “anything that is conducive to the city’s long-term stability and prosperity, as well as its integration with the mainland”, Liu told the gathering.
Liu, who is Beijing’s top diplomat in Hong Kong, made the remarks in a rare sit-down with about 40 honorary consuls in the city. It was the biggest of its kind since Liu’s predecessor Xie Feng hosted a briefing with diplomats and businesses in May last year to explain Beijing’s plan to impose a national security law on Hong Kong.
In Friday’s meeting, Liu said that China was a country that truly valued human rights, and Beijing would always want Hong Kong to do well.
“From the Sars outbreak in 2003 to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the central government has always shown timely support, and made all efforts in helping Hong Kong to tackle difficulties,” he said.
“In comparison, Western countries, such as the US, have claimed to stand with the people of Hong Kong, while wielding the rod of sanctions. They were relentless and extreme in dealing one heavy blow after the other to the city’s economy.”
Liu also said that, based on misconception or ignorance, some countries had made the “twisted allegation” that there were no human rights or freedoms in China.
“But China is a country that truly values human rights … During the coronavirus pandemic, the Communist Party and the Chinese government spared no effort in curing every infected person, and did not give up on any patient,” he said.
Responding to Thursday’s US Central Intelligence Agency announcement of the formation of a new “China Mission Centre” – the latest sign of deepening Sino-US tensions despite Washington’s assertions it was not seeking a “new Cold War” with Beijing – Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said on Friday that the city needed to stay alert.
“Smart Hong Kong people would know how the CIA’s China Mission Centre gathers intelligence. We therefore have to be prepared,” Tang said.
“In safeguarding the national security as well as the security of Hong Kong, we have to have a robust intelligence system, which will be supported by our operational unit.
“We also have to look at relevant legislation. That’s why we have to revive Article 23.”
Tang was referring to long-shelved Article 23 legislation that would complement the existing national security law – which bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – to cover additional offences such as treason, theft of state secrets and foreign political bodies engaging in political activities in Hong Kong.
Tang added on Friday that dealing with espionage would be the main focus of Article 23.