For Hong Kong’s Beijing-Backed Officials, Xi’s All That

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HONG KONG — On his first full day on the job, Hong Kong’s new chief, John Lee, shared a picture of himself working at his desk with a printout of what he described as an vital speech by Xi Jinping, China’s chief, positioned subsequent to his pocket book.

Mr. Lee is just not the one Hong Kong official hanging on Mr. Xi’s phrases. Lawmakers held a six-hour session this month lauding Mr. Xi’s remarks on Hong Kong, with a number of additionally praising him for visiting the city recently despite an approaching typhoon and a Covid outbreak. And lots of of high officers have attended group study sessions, together with one titled “Spirit of the President’s Vital Speech” held by the Civil Service Bureau. In a authorities information launch describing the session, the time period “vital speech” was used 10 occasions, in almost each paragraph.

In mainland China, such shows of devotion to the nation’s highly effective chief are frequent, notably below Mr. Xi, who moved early in his tenure to revive strongman politics and a cult of character round him. However they symbolize a jarring shift for Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted a excessive diploma of autonomy when it returned to Chinese language management 25 years in the past.

Whereas Hong Kong has lengthy needed to abide by Beijing’s choices over main points, the forms’s conspicuous embrace of Mr. Xi has crystallized the town’s new identification as a territory firmly in Beijing’s grip. The efficiency of loyalty to Mr. Xi is the most recent function of the Communist Social gathering’s assertive method to Hong Kong and its efforts to tame the town’s defiant political streak.

“Within the historical past of Hong Kong, that is an uncommon response,” mentioned John P. Burns, an emeritus professor on the College of Hong Kong. “We now have by no means spent a lot time and power poring over a speech.”

In his speech, made on July 1 in Hong Kong to mark the 25th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese language management, Mr. Xi emphasised that “political energy should be within the arms of patriots.” His remarks had been printed by state-owned publishing homes and displayed in bookshops alongside different books by the Chinese language chief about governance, which have additionally been not too long ago launched in conventional Chinese language characters for the Hong Kong market.

Up to now Mr. Xi’s writings have obtained a combined response from the general public, with many individuals treating them as a curiosity. However among the many pro-Beijing camp that now dominates Hong Kong politics, finding out Mr. Xi, and being seen doing it, has develop into more and more important.

Mr. Lee, Hong Kong’s chief govt, a longtime safety official who was handpicked by Beijing, has led the marketing campaign to review Mr. Xi’s phrases, giving talks at periods for high officers. He called Mr. Xi’s Hong Kong speech a “blueprint” for the town and mentioned he was organizing his authorities to satisfy its calls for.

He has cited Mr. Xi’s feedback at most of his public occasions this month, together with an exhibition of a giant hanging lantern and the graduation of a new class of police recruits. Mr. Lee inspired the incoming officers to heed Mr. Xi’s reminder that “Hong Kong can not face up to chaos.” (To mark their commencement, the brand new recruits goose-stepped in a parade, the primary time the step has been used within the ceremony after Hong Kong legislation enforcement our bodies dropped the British-style march.)

The frequent references to the Chinese language chief mark not simply Beijing’s heavier hand within the governance of Hong Kong, but additionally the weak point of an area authorities that has been battered by mass protests after which the pandemic. Mr. Lee, who spent almost his complete profession with the police and the safety service, lacks the form of broad community his predecessors delivered to the job via prolonged expertise within the civil service or in enterprise.

“The chief of this authorities is far more depending on the central authorities than any earlier authorities,” Mr. Burns, of the College of Hong Kong, mentioned.

Mr. Xi’s transient go to to Hong Kong, his first in 5 years, was a victory lap for the chief as he declared an end to the city’s recent era of large-scale dissent. He urged the federal government to handle livelihood points like a scarcity of entry to housing and financial alternative, the form of points that Beijing’s allies have mentioned are the foundation of Hong Kong’s mass pro-democracy protests.

Mr. Xi also issued orders for Hong Kong when he visited in 2017, warning that any problem to Beijing’s authority “crosses the pink line.” However these phrases had been largely ignored till 2020, when Beijing imposed a tough security law on the city, a part of a sweeping crackdown that left a lot of the metropolis’s distinguished pro-democracy politicians in jail or exiled. The legislative council as soon as noticed boisterous debates and occasional heated protests, however such divisions vanished after Beijing applied new guidelines to make sure only “patriots” could run for office.

After Mr. Xi’s go to this month, dozens of lawmakers spent six hours praising Mr. Xi’s speech and the help he confirmed for Hong Kong throughout his journey. “President Xi, fearless of the epidemic threat and the storm menace, made an vital speech in Hong Kong,” Regina Ip, a veteran pro-Beijing lawmaker, mentioned.

Ted Hui, a former opposition lawmaker who went into exile, mentioned he was shocked by the dialogue of Mr. Xi.

“Up to now, Hong Kong politics and the politics of mainland China had been fairly separate below the ‘one nation, two programs’ observe, and in Hong Kong’s legislative council we didn’t speak in regards to the speeches of mainland politicians,” he mentioned.

“What I see is that the tradition of the mainland political system has been introduced into Hong Kong,” he added. “It’s a character cult.”

On the Hong Kong Ebook Honest this week, newly printed copies of Mr. Xi’s Hong Kong speech and works resembling “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China IV,” the most recent installment of his speeches and writings, had been displayed prominently on the entrance to the huge show corridor.

The presence of Mr. Xi’s work on the truthful was coated breathlessly by state media, with a China Daily headline calling Mr. Xi’s books a “massive hit.” High Hong Kong officers made highly publicized visits to the truthful to buy copies of the books.

However on Monday, extra folks had been taking pictures of the stacks of books than studying or shopping for them.

Many guests mentioned his title out loud upon recognizing the books. One man sporting a basketball jersey and tattoo sleeve paged via one tome with studied erudition as he posed for pictures, suppressing his laughter.

Chung Wah Chow, a contract author, mentioned she got here searching for “pink books” after seeing social media posts about them. She spent a number of minutes evaluating the English model of a compilation of the Chinese language chief’s speeches and written work to the unique Chinese language. She mentioned that the interpretation was higher than she had anticipated.

After placing the e-book again, she lingered, watching to see if others would method the sales space. Few did.

“Nobody is lining up right here,” she mentioned. “I’m considering of the employees who must carry all these heavy books after the truthful.”

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