Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam postponed a key annual political speech scheduled for Wednesday, saying she must consult with Beijing on some of its proposals.
The unprecedented delay in the speech was also attributed to plans by Chinese President Xi Jinping to travel to Shenzhen to mark the 40th anniversary of the special economic zone on Wednesday, which was not announced until Monday and which Lam would also attend.
Analysts told the Guardian that there was a “palpable fear” that the central government would downgrade Hong Kong as an international financial city in favor of Shenzhen, and Lam had no choice but to sign up. Xi’s travel plans.
Lam told media on Monday that his decision to postpone the speech – potentially until November – was within the law and in the public interest because Hong Kong’s economic recovery required support from mainland China’s central government.
She said she had presented new proposals to the central government and the central government had only recently responded, inviting it to Beijing at the end of the month to discuss them. She said the measures, which she did not detail, required coordination with the central government and that she hoped to be able to deliver the speech by the end of November. “This is exactly the essence of a country, two systems,” she said.
Willy Lam, a professor at the Center for China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the heist showed “deeper integration” between Hong Kong and mainland China, and suggested it could be due that Lam was trying to protect Hong Kong’s special status. as a major international financial center. “There is a palpable fear that Hong Kong could be outclassed by Shenzhen.”
He said the last-minute delay in his political speech was “quite embarrassing” and showed that Xi didn’t think Hong Kong was important enough to change its schedule to accommodate Lam’s long political speech.
“This is completely unprecedented and it shows in a dramatic and graphic way that Hong Kong’s status has been demoted and that it must do everything in its power to please Beijing, including making this change. .
“Her fear that if she doesn’t make the change, she won’t be able to meet Xi Jinping in Shenzhen and that would affect Hong Kong’s status.”
Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, a political scientist at Hong Kong Baptist University and a former pro-democracy lawmaker, said the delay showed political discourse was no longer an internal matter of the Hong Kong government.
“For this one, she has to seek approval and instructions from Beijing, and people here are being informed accordingly so that there can be no mistake as to who is in charge and who is just following. orders, ”Chan said.
At the press conference, Lam denied that she was “awaiting instructions” from the central government.
“This is to respond to a positive indication from the central government that it has fully taken into account the recommendations of the Director General,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity that no CEO would give up.
Hong Kong’s economy and political climate have shrunk dramatically after 18 months, including mass pro-democracy protests, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a Beijing-led crackdown on dissidents, including the sweeping law on national security.
Lam rejected international criticism and sanctions and called for confidence in the governments of Hong Kong and mainland China.