Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam will officially meet with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng in Beijing on Wednesday for the first time since anti-extradition protests erupted in June.
Lam will visit Shanghai to attend the 2nd China International Import Expo on November 5 and then travel to Beijing in the evening, the government said in a statement on Sunday.
On Wednesday morning, Lam will be received by Han. In the afternoon, she will attend the third plenary meeting of the Leading Group for the Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Leading Group). Patrick Nip, the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, and Chan Kwok-ki, the director of the chief executive’s office, will join Lam on the trip.
Lam will return to Hong Kong on November 7. During her absence, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chun will be the acting chief executive.
It was reported that Han had met Lam once in Shenzhen before she announced the suspension of the extradition bill on June 15. Lam declined to comment on the meeting.
The central government will explain its stance on the Hong Kong situation and order Lam to provide more legal tools for the police to suppress the protests, said Lau Siu-kai, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.
Lau said the Hong Kong government should take stronger measures to protect Chinese investments in Hong Kong, as radical protesters have vandalized Chinese banks and pro-Beijing shops during protests.
Lau said Beijing was disappointed by the Hong Kong government’s handling of the extradition saga. He said Hong Kong officials had failed to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis and understand that the political struggle was a “dead or alive” issue. He added that many government departments, as well as senior officials and Exco members, had not done enough to end the violence.
However, Lau said the Wednesday meeting would probably not focus on whether Lam should step down, emphasizing that ending the violence was the government’s top priority.
On October 23, the Financial Times reported that the Chinese government was drafting a plan to replace Lam with an “interim” chief executive by March 2020. The report said the two possible candidates included Norman Chan Tak-lam, a former chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang Ying-nien, a former chief secretary and current standing member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
Hong Kong and Macau should establish complete special administrative regions with legal and law enforcement systems to safeguard the national security of China, the Communist Party of China (CPC) said in a communique after the four-day Fourth Plenary Session of its Central Committee Political Bureau, which ended on October 31.
Shen Chunyao, director of the Hong Kong, Macau and Basic Law Commission of the National People’s Congress, said in a Beijing press conference on November 1 that the central government had five key missions for Hong Kong and Macau: form the core of their governing bodies with patriots; perfect the central government appointment system for chief executives and key officials; establish and improve the legal and law enforcement systems to safeguard the country’s national security; integrate with China’s development plan; push forward the development of the Greater Bay Area; improve people’s livelihoods and resolve deep-rooted problems; and strengthen national education and encourage patriotism among young people.
Last month, the Hong Kong government invoked an emergency law to impose a ban on wearing masks, which has been effective since October 5.
At the same time, MTR Corp closed stations early, citing vandalism by “rioters.” It shut all stations between October 5 and 7 and closed them earlier – 10 pm in the following two weeks and 11 pm in late October. The move was condemned by pro-democracy lawmakers as a de facto curfew.
Also, the police force stepped up its suppression of protests by randomly arresting people, using tear gas and pepper spray more frequently, and entering shopping malls, restaurants and residential buildings without warrants. It also banned many large-scale rallies.
These measures were somewhat effective at reducing the number of protesters on the streets as some people could not join “illegal assemblies” due to legal and safety concerns.
However, the measures failed to stop tens of thousands of people from attending banned rallies. As police avoided direct confrontation with crowds and tended to wait for two to three hours before commencing clearance operations, radical protesters could still vandalize pro-Beijing shops and the entrances of MTR stations.
From October 27, the police force changed its strategy, launching a clearance operation at the beginning of the “illegal assembly” in Tsim Sha Tsui. On October 31, they were patrolling in Lan Kwai Fong to stop masked people from gathering for Halloween.
On Saturday afternoon, they cracked down on two illegal assemblies, one in Causeway Bay and the other in Tsim Sha Tsui, shortly after people began to arrive. Black-shirted people roamed around in the evening, burning debris and vandalizing pro-Beijing shops. At around 7 pm, people broke the windows of the Xinhua News Agency building in Wan Chai and then torched the offices.
On Sunday, netizens called for rallies in seven districts – Admiralty, Mong Kok, Wong Tai Sin, Tai Po, Shatin, Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun – complaining that the police had used excessive force over the past four months. Police intercepted and arrested many people in shopping malls and on the streets.