HKSAR chief to begin duty report in Beijing with border reopening, economic recovery topping agenda
Published: Dec 20, 2022 10:42 PM
John Lee Ka-chiu Photo: CFP

John Lee Ka-chiu Photo: CFP

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu will travel to Beijing from Wednesday to Saturday to deliver his annual work report, which will also be his first duty visit since he became leader of the HKSAR government. 

A number of matters top the agenda, among which checkpoint reopening between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong is expected to be discussed, experts said, and Lee's work report would also focus on the city's restoration of social order following the national security law for Hong Kong and post-COVID economic recovery. 

Lee told a press conference on Tuesday morning that he understands that the public call for reopening of borders between the mainland and Hong Kong is a general view, and he will report the city's situation in detail in the work report. He also emphasized that the city would fully cooperate with the mainland in epidemic prevention and control. 

After the mainland recently unveiled a new 10-point plan to optimize its COVID-19 response, the HKSAR government talked with Shenzhen and South China's Guangdong Province on the matter of resumption of travel, according to media reports. Thousands of customs, immigration and police officers will be sent to checkpoints to manage a predicted surge in traffic as the border between Hong Kong and the mainland is expected to fully reopen next month, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Friday.

When asked about whether Lee would talk about quarantine-free arrangements for cross-border travel and will there be "good news" before Spring Festival in January, Lee said on Tuesday that he would report Hong Kong's situation to the central government and express the willingness to fully cooperate with the mainland's policies. 

"Lee's official debriefing and visit to Beijing is a discharge of his duties as a chief executive. He holds his office on a dual accountability basis, to the central government and the HKSAR," Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong and member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

He may convey the HKSAR's wishes for a quick removal or adjustment to the quarantine measures for entering the mainland checkpoints and other favorable policy incentives for a comprehensive economic recovery in the pandemic's aftermath, Chu said. 

"We also expect our CE is going to report to the leadership that the elections were held successfully and implementation of the constitutional reform is smooth so far," he said. 

Lau Siu-kai, deputy head of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies who is also a senior policy advisor, told local media in Hong Kong that the CE's annual work report reflects the institutional arrangement under which the CE is responsible to the central government. 

Lau believed that since taking office, Lee made progress in handling the land and housing issue, improving local governance and promoting national education, which would all be affirmed by the top leaders. 

Over the past few years, the city has consolidated its achievements in restoring order, and the situation has constantly improved as the central government brought up new requirements for the local governance team. 

Lee delivered his first policy address in mid-October, highlighting the need to improve local governance, enhance the city's competitiveness as an international business hub, attract more talented professionals and fix social and economic woes, as the city embarks on a new journey under the One Country, Two Systems. 

Also, President Xi's earlier visit to the city on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland and his speech were the blueprint for Lee's policy address, Lee said, noting that the city is now at the critical stage of transitioning from chaos to order and prosperity, and he will lead the governing team to work on the city's growth plan.

Another matter of concern during the duty report trip is whether Lee would bring up his earlier request to the central government for an interpretation of the national security case of media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, following a top court in the city allowing an overseas barrister to defend him. 

Lee said the central government's three institutions in Hong Kong supported the law's interpretation by the National People's Congress - China's top legislature - and hopefully, the central government will soon make a decision on the matter, he told the press conference on Tuesday. 

The NPC Standing Committee is set to meet from December 27 to 30, but the interpretation of the national security law is not on the public agenda, and Lai's trial has been adjourned to September next year, the SCMP said.