China’s 2018 Two Sessions: What to Look for as a Hongkonger

China’s 2018 Two Sessions, meeting of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and National People’s Congress (NPC) began respectively on the 3rd and 5th of March. 2,200 representatives from different political parties, social groups, professions, various sectors, and other organizations have gathered in Beijing to attend the meeting of the CPPCC while 2,924 delegates elected from provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, and special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau have gathered to attend the meeting of the NPC.

The CPPCC is the top political advisory body in China. The CPPCC discusses several issues regarding economics, politics, health, environment, and more, during its annual meeting, in the hopes of guiding China towards being a better country to live in for all of its inhabitants.

However, the power of the CPPCC is only limited to advising the government on policies, not law-making. The NPC is the parliamentary body of China. The NPC runs voting for bills and makes laws during its annual meeting. But since the vast majority of these delegates actually belong to the ruling Communist Party of China  (CPC), the meeting of the NPC is thoroughly planned and rarely are there any rejections of bills, leading to no big surprises happening at these meetings.

Flags of Hong Kong and China. Photo from Flickr.

This year, the most drastic political changes that haven’t been seen in the past decade were expected. These included the removal of term limits of presidency and vice-presidency, the possibility of Wang Qishan who has expertise in dealing with the United States becoming the vice-president to improve China-US relations, and the major reorganization of government bodies.

During the meeting of NPC yesterday (Mar 11th), the CPC’s proposal to amend the constitution to add ideas and concepts developed by President Xi and to remove the term limits of presidency and vice-presidency passed by a vote of 2,958 for, only 2 against, and 3 abstentions. With the removal of term limits on the presidency and vice-presidency, Xi will stay in power on beyond 2023, even when no Chinese presidents have served more than two five-year presidency terms. Technically, he can stay in power for his lifetime. With his uncompromising stance with more emphasis on ‘one country’ than on ‘two systems’, the fate of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the principle ‘one country, two systems’ became blurry. There might be more constraints on the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers.

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
Photo by Seungyeon Choi.

With this constitutional change, more attention of Hongkongers is now on the appointment of the new head of the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs. In recent years, CPC officials have been describing localists, young students who protest on the streets against Beijing government, as separatists, categorizing them in the same group with the extremists in Xinjiang and Tibet. During the opening session of NPC on Mar 5th, Premier Li Keqiang warned that China would never tolerate any separatist schemes.

Considering what Xi said last October that Hongkongers should have a stronger sense of Chinese identity, and the similar statements that were repeatedly made after by other CPC officials, it’s most likely for Xi to appoint Li Zahnshu, a close friend with Xi, to replace Zhang Dejiang as the new head of the Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs since Li will make best efforts to be loyal to Xi and govern Hong Kong the way Xi wants. However, Wang Yang is another possibility. Wang is more familiar with Hong Kong as he used to govern Guangdong province, and he could be more flexible with Hong Kong, though still under Xi.

Eyes should be kept on the 2018 Two Sessions for another one week to have a grasp of whether Xi will loosen or tighten up Hong Kong for the next few years, even possibly for his lifetime.

 

Editor: Jasmine Hong

Writer: Seungyeon Choi

Copy Editor: Evelyn Ye

Content Manager: Emil Aaby

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