Sunday, 6 March 2016

HK Sliding Down the Totem Pole

Zhang Dejiang (centre) talks to Hong Kong delegates in this new arrangement
China analysts are reading whatever tea leaves they can find during the "two sessions", or the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing to figure out what senior leaders are thinking.

And in the case of Hong Kong, it looks like the city has been further downgraded in its importance -- according to seating arrangements.

Last December was a big clue, when President Xi Jinping was seated at the head of a long table and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was shown his place adjacent to him on the side.

This was repeated when Leung met with Premier Li Keqiang, making it a sharp contrast to previous visits when Leung was seated with the senior leaders side-by-side in comfy sofas.

Previous seating was arranged with comfy arm chairs
And this time for the "two sessions", the Hong Kong delegation was not seated in a large room, where each person had a large armchair to sit in, placed in a horse-shoe shape.

Instead National People's Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang sat at a long rectangular table in front, while the 36-member delegation faced him like an audience. This is a new change since 1997 when Hong Kong was included in the "two sessions".

Some Hong Kong deputies sounded surprised when they saw the new seating arrangement, but when asked by the media about it, they downplayed the political significance.

NPC Standing Committee member Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who has been a deputy since 1998 said: "I think this arrangement is the norm, because in the past it looked like we were foreign guests... but in fact just like those from mainland provinces, we are here to do our job, and not to receive courteous treatment. I think this new arrangement is better because it is easier for me to take notes."

Ching Cheong, a veteran China watcher, says there used to be a tacit understanding that Hong Kong held a slightly more significant position than provinces on the mainland.

"The latest seating arrangement signifies that Hong Kong no longer holds a special status from Beijing's point of view. Instead it is now on the same level as mainland provinces," he said.

It sounds like the city has lost its privileges and is being punished for not behaving.

But really, if the people are unhappy because they feel their local government is not working in their best interests, whose fault is that?

If the Hong Kong government tried to do things in the best interests in Hong Kong, would we see the social unrest and polarized political atmosphere we have now? But then again, it's all about the Party, right?

Sounds like Hong Kong is in the dog house...

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