The Hong Kong government will pour HK$23.7 million (US$3 million) into “national studies training” for civil servants this financial year – an increase of 30 per cent from the previous year – and has invited a Basic Law expert from Beijing to brief them about constitutional affairs on Friday.
Qiao Xiaoyang, who recently retired as chairman of the Law Committee in the national legislature, will be the second mainland representative within a week to speak at seminars on the city’s mini-constitution.
On Sunday, Beijing’s liaison office director Wang Zhimin hit out at local activists for challenging China’s sovereignty at a symposium that current Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, senior government leaders and former leader Tung Chee-hwa attended.
The official visit by Qiao, a former chairman of the Basic Law Committee in the National People’s Congress, comes amid Beijing’s rising impatience over the city’s stalled progress in enacting its own national security law to ban any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the central government.
Qiao, who arrives on Thursday, will address senior civil servants, ministers and members of Lam’s cabinet, the Executive Council, on Friday. The next day, he will attend a forum organised by the Joint Committee for the Promotion of the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
“According to my understanding, Qiao would be speaking on constitutional affairs,” Secretary for Civil Service Joshua Law Chi-kong said on Monday.
He added it was good for mainland officials to exchange views with local officials.
The government also revealed that the extra HK$5.4 million it had earmarked for training – from HK$18.3 million in the previous year to HK$23.7 million this financial year – would go towards including more staff in programmes, having extra courses on the mainland for mid-ranked employees and new courses in the city to ensure better understanding of the Basic Law.
“We will continue to arrange for different courses for civil servants with different mainland academies. This will include courses on campus or visits to mainland cities and rural areas to observe their development and livelihood situation,” Law said during the special meeting of the Legislative Council’s finance committee.
“The number of people to receive training on the mainland or locally is expected to increase from 8,000 in 2018 to 8,180 in 2019, while those who will receive local training on the Basic Law will rise from 17,600 in 2018 to 20,180 in 2019.”
Lawmaker Charles Mok, the convenor of the pro-democracy camp, found the government’s increased expenditure on “national studies training” for civil servants “worrying”.
“The government has not given up any chance to offer ‘political education’ to civil servants, even though they are not political appointees,” he said. “One can’t rule out they might want to challenge the thinking of civil servants.”
But Christopher Cheung Wah-fung, of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, argued more should be done, as the beneficiaries formed a small section of the 170,000-strong public service force.
Separately in Macau, the Occupy movement in 2014 and the Mong Kok riot two years ago in Hong Kong were cited as threats to the country’s “political security” at a week-long exhibition jointly organised by the Macau government and Beijing’s liaison office there.
“The opposition and radical youngsters have created the illegal Occupy movement … attempting to mess up Hong Kong, deterring the effective implementation of ‘one country, two systems’,” one of the display boards read. The board had pictures of two of the movement’s co-leaders, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Joshua Wong Chi-fung.
The phrase “political security” has previously been used by state officials on the mainland to reaffirm the leadership of the Communist Party. But it has rarely been mentioned at events organised in Macau and Hong Kong, which have separate systems governed by their own mini-constitutions.