Hong Kong and Macau Work Office
中共中央港澳工作办公室
国务院港澳事务办公室
Agency overview
Formed2023 (HMO)
1978 (HKMAO)
TypeMinisterial level agency
JurisdictionPeople's Republic of China
HeadquartersNo. 77 Yuetan South Street, Xicheng District, 100045 Beijing
Agency executives
Parent agencyCentral Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs
Websitewww.hmo.gov.cn Edit this at Wikidata
Footnotes
Formed in 2023 on the basis of then Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council
Hong Kong and Macau Work Office of the Chinese Communist Party
Simplified Chinese中央港澳工作办公室
Traditional Chinese中央港澳工作辦公室
Office of the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs
Simplified Chinese中央港澳工作领导小组办公室
Traditional Chinese中央港澳工作領導小組辦公室
Commonly abbreviated as
Simplified Chinese中央港澳办
Traditional Chinese中央港澳辦
Literal meaningHong Kong & Macau Office

The Hong Kong and Macau Work Office, concurrently known as the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council (HMO), is an administrative office of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party responsible for promoting cooperation and coordination of political, economic, and cultural ties between mainland China and the Chinese Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau.[1] It was formed in 2023 on the basis of then State Council's HKMAO.[2] Its head office is in Xicheng District, Beijing.[3]

History

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council (HKMAO) was established in 1978 to handle Hong Kong's future, which was a British colony at the time.[4] The office, along with the Foreign Ministry, was heavily involved in the negotiations between China and the United Kingdom that eventually led to the handover of Hong Kong to China.[4]

From June 2017, discipline inspection within the office has been handled by Pan Shengzhou.[5][6]

The office's Deputy Director, from December 2018 to 2022, was Deng Zhonghua, a lawyer, born 1961. Deng replaced Feng Wei, born September 1957, and is seen by the Hong Kong democratic camp as someone they could talk with.[citation needed] His retirement was delayed by a year so that he could handle Beijing's concerns about 'independence' advocates in Hong Kong. In March 2022, Wang Linggui replaced Deng Zhonghua as a deputy director, leaving a total of 5 deputy directors after the expected departure of Song Zhe.[7]

Notably, in 2020, the appointment of Xia Baolong over Zhang Xiaoming was seen as a stunning reshuffle within the HKMAO. Pao noted that Zhang Xiaoming, the original director of HKMAO, was demoted and re-appointed as the deputy director responsible for the daily operations with his ministerial rank intact.[8]

2023 reforms

The office was widely reformed under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) general secretary Xi Jinping after wide-ranging reforms to change the Party and state structure in March 2023.[4] The reforms established the new "Hong Kong and Macau Work Office of the Central Committee of the CCP", and turned the HKMAO into an external name of the new CCP office under the arrangement "one institution with two names", similar to the Taiwan Affairs Office, which is the external name of the Taiwan Work Office of the CCP Central Committee.[4] The new Hong Kong and Macau Work Office is also expected to serve as the de facto secretariat of the already existing Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs of the CCP.[4]

Administration

The agency is headed by a Director. There are deputy directors who assist the director in running the office.

The agency answers to the State Council of the People's Republic of China, as well as the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs of the CCP.

Primary functions

According to its website, the agency's main functions are:[9]

Ho Lok-sang, writing for China Daily, posited the importance of understanding the differences in the roles of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and those of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).[10] Both organisations’ natures dictate the developments in Hong Kong and the smooth functioning of “one country, two systems” (OCTS) policy.[10]

According to Ho, HKMAO does not possess the authority or executive power with which they can intervene in Hong Kong affairs.[10] On the contrary, the executive branch of the central government of the PRC is made up of 26 constituent departments of the State Council, comprising 21 ministries, such as the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Security; three commissions, such as the Commission on Development and Reform and the Commission on Health; the central bank, the People's Bank of China; and the National Audit Office.[10] Overall, these units can formulate and implement policies. Hence, HKMAO has the right to express concerns, but does not constitute an intervention in the internal affairs of Hong Kong and Macau.[10]

List of directors

Name Time Period
Liao Chengzhi 1978–1983
Ji Pengfei 1983–1990
Lu Ping 1990–1997
Liao Hui 1997–2010
Wang Guangya 2010–2017
Zhang Xiaoming 2017–2020
Xia Baolong 2020–present

Current director Xia Baolong also was the vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference between 2018 and 2023, becoming the highest-ranking official to hold the office in a decade.[11] Zhang Xiaoming was replaced by Xia and became deputy director of the office.[12] This is the first time a state leader, Xia Baolong, was put in charge of the cabinet-level office that oversees the affairs of Hong Kong and Macau.[13]

This move has not only strengthened the central government's direct supervision over the implementation of its policies in Hong Kong and Macau, and reduced incumbent chief Zhang Xiaoming's authority in an unexpected demotion,[13] but is also a countermeasure to ensure civil obedience after months of social turmoil and anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Pao also posited that the leadership change was a significant move that aimed to upgrade the status of the HKMAO – now led by a director at deputy national level and three deputy directors at ministerial level.[8] Cheng Yan — a columnist who wrote a commentary published on Orangenews.hk — also argued that these changes were parts of a proactive reform of the “one country, two systems” principle, and urged Hong Kong society to take initiative to act in concert with China's development and safeguard the “one country, two systems” principle in the city.[8]

Department structure

Internal bureaucracy

In 1990, the internal bureaucracy of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council adhered to the following hierarchical structure:[14]

Position Role
Director Formal head of the office, maintains overall responsibility for policy. Communicates with the Chief Executive.
Deputy Director Assists the director in managing the daily operations of the office.
First Bureau Responsible for the conducting of top-down investigations and research authorized by the deputy director and Director.
Second Bureau Responsible for research on matters of political, legal, cultural, educational, scientific, and technological nature, as requested.
Third Bureau Responsible for conducting research upon economic concerns, and the management of policy involving Macau.
Administration and Secretary-General's Bureau Responsible for administrative and organizational work, alongside and assisting the Secretary-General.
Hong Kong and Macau Research Institute Responsible for conducting research on the economics, culture, and respective societies of Hong Kong and Macau in coordination with the other departments.

By 2019, the internal bureaucracy of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office was expanded upon to include the departments of National Security Affairs and Propaganda.[15]

External bureaucracy

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The external bureaucracy of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office operates in accordance with the principle of nomenklatura, with positions under this system assigned under the criteria of reliability, political attitude, qualifications, and administrative ability by the bureaucracy of the CCP.

Whilst subordinate to the CCP, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office is also subject to the authority of the Party's Central Foreign Affairs Commission within the decision-making process.

Within this system, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office has the status of a governmental agency, maintaining authority below that of the Central Committee, alongside other ministries such as the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Commerce, and the Ministry of State Security.

Subordinate to these agencies is the structural economic bureaucracy, including the institutions of the Bank of China, People's Bank of China, and the state-owned enterprise of Everbright.

Ranked below are the party agencies, including the Hong Kong and Macau Work Committee, which is directly subordinate to the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

The elected party, as a result of the Legislative Elections in Hong Kong, is also classed as formally subordinate to the authority of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

Relationship with the Hong Kong and Macau Work Committee

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The subordinate relationship between the Hong Kong and Macau Work Committee and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office is one previously influenced by controversy.

This was a result of the chain of command, in which the individual bureaucratic rank of state council minister, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Work Committee, Xu Jiadun, was equal to that of Ji Pengfei, the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. This allowed Xu to consequently bypass the authority of the Office, and discuss affairs directly with the Central Foreign Affairs Leading Small Group. As of 1990, the Work Committee was downgraded and tighter control of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office was reinforced to resolve the issue.

Statements

On 20 December 2021, G7, European Union (EU), and Five Eyes members issued public remarks to criticize the Legislative Council election. They described the electoral system as ‘Beijing’s strategy to ensure only “patriots” hold office' and criticized the low turnout rate.[16] Foreign ministers of the G7 and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell also issued a joint statement which said that ‘ democratic elements are eroded’ in Hong Kong.[17] On the same day, the HKMAO issued a statement in rebuttal. A spokesman for the office said that western countries ‘disguised their interference in local affairs and purpose of destroying Hong Kong’s prosperity’ by claiming care and concerns over Hong Kong's democratic development. The spokesman also said in the same statement that western countries have always offered a political platform for the anti-China gangs, incited them, and provided capital support to them to organize illegal movements.[18]

On 9 May 2022, G7 issued a press statement which expressed “grave concern over the selection process” of Hong Kong's new leader and described it as “part of an ongoing assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms”.[19] The European Union (EU) has also expressed regrets on ‘the violation of democratic principles and political pluralism’ in the chief executive(CE) election on 8 May, with EU's top diplomat Josep Borell claiming it as ‘another step in the dismantling of the one country, two systems principle’.[20]

In response to these remarks, the HKMAO, on the same day, issued a statement defending the CE election. The spokesman for the office criticized the G7 and EU for ‘blatantly smearing Hong Kong’s election and meddling in Hong Kong issues and China’s domestic affairs’, ‘ignoring the facts that Hong Kong’s CE election was held in accordance with the laws and principles of fairness and impartiality, election results have commanded people’s respect and support and the atmosphere in Hong Kong society was united and delightful’.[21]

On 19 November 2021, the United States passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a federal law that provides for sanctions relating to undermining fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, and requires annual reports on Hong Kong autonomy to be made. On 20 November 2021, Yang Guang from the office made the remark that the US has ‘ignored China’s multiple objection, blatantly interfered in China’s internal affairs, contravened internal laws and principles of international relations, and displayed dominance in the ugliest sense.’[22]

On 20 January 2022, European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong, including severe restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of association, and press freedom. European lawmakers also urged the European Commission and EU member states to impose sanctions on the city's top officials and proposed a review of Hong Kong's status at the World Trade Organization (WTO).[23] On 21 January 2022, the HKMAO issued a statement describing the resolution as ‘a rubbish paper’, a “smear on its democracy and freedom”. A spokesman for the office said that European countries were ‘trying to interfere in China’s internal affairs by pointing fingers at and derogating Hong Kong affairs’. The spokesman also remarked that China has ‘moved away from the era of national humiliation’ and ‘will not allow any blatant interference of local affairs.’

Controversy

In April 2020, the HKMAO expressed approval of the Court of Appeal judgment upholding the constitutionality of the Emergency Regulations Ordinance and disapproval of certain current affairs in the Legislative Council. In another strongly-worded statement released by the Liaison Office, the HKMAO was recognised as one of ‘China’s top bodies overseeing the city’s affairs‘ that ‘is authorized by the central authorities to handle Hong Kong affairs’. The statement added that the HKMAO is entitled to supervise affairs in Hong Kong and make statements on issues on Hong Kong's relationship with Beijing, ranging from the “correct” implementation of the Basic Law to matters pertaining to the overall interests of society.[24]

Controversies as to whether the remarks made by the HKMAO constitute a violation of article 22 of the Basic Law had been stirred up. Article 22(1) of the Basic Law provides that: “No department of the Central People's Government and no province, autonomous region, or municipality directly under the Central Government may interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law." The Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement describing the public comments issued by the HKMAO as an exercise of public authority, which had already contravened article 22(1).[25]

In response to such controversies, a spokesman for the HKMAO said it is “inaccurate” to say the liaison office is bound by article 22 of the Basic Law. The local government had also issued a statement responding to media enquiries. In the statement, the government referred to article 22(2) of the Basic Law to explain the legal basis of HKMAO. It added that the office was entrusted with authority and responsibility to represent the Central government to express views and exercise supervisory power on major issues including those concerning the relations between the Central Government and the accurate implementation of the Basic Law. Therefore, the public remarks made by the HKMAO were legitimate and in accordance with the Basic Law.[26]

In another public comment released by Professor Ho Lok Sang, Head of the Department of Economics and Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies at Lingnan University, the general public shall not ‘misunderstand the roles of the HKMAO’. He noted that the difference between intervening in Hong Kong's internal affairs and expressing concern over some troubling developments shall be drawn, and whether an act committed by the HKMAO constitutes an intervention of the Basic Law shall be assessed “when there is a substantive impact on the actual operation of the political system.”[10]

The HKMAO issued a statement against pro-democracy figures who organized primaries for the Hong Kong Legislative Council in 2020, saying that it was "an unlawful manipulation of Hong Kong elections" and a "blatant challenge" to the Basic Law, despite the Basic Law's Article 68 stating that the ultimate goal is to have universal suffrage for all members of the Legislative Council.[27]

In September 2022, deputy director Huang Liuquan, claimed that it was "inappropriate" to call 113,000 people leaving Hong Kong in the last year as an emigration wave, and also said claims that the National Security Law had "mainlandised" the city were inaccurate.[28] The decrease in population was 1.6% from a year earlier, the largest drop since record-keeping started in 1961.[28] Huang said, "Hong Kong's population drop is caused by various factors and there is no way to suggest that it is a result of an emigration wave."[28]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council". Archived from the original on 18 May 2007. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
  2. ^ "Beijing's key office on Hong Kong affairs to answer directly to China's top Communist Party leadership". South China Morning Post. 16 March 2023. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  3. ^ "联系我们". Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Retrieved 24 August 2021. 北京市西城区月坛南街77号 邮政编码: 100045
  4. ^ a b c d e Lam, Jeffie; Wu, Willa (19 March 2023). "How to understand the 'elevation' of Beijing's top office for Hong Kong affairs? Is the city more 'special' now? Analysts unpack the meaning behind the move". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 22 March 2023.
  5. ^ Deputy director of Beijing's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office steps down, a year late, SCMP, 29 December 2018
  6. ^ Top Beijing official delays retirement to help rein in pro-independence calls in Hong Kong, SCMP, 4 October 2018
  7. ^ "social scientist to be SAR affairs office deputy head". The Standard HK.
  8. ^ a b c Pao, Jeff (13 February 2020). "Close ally of Xi named new HK Macau Office chief". Asia Times. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  9. ^ "Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council". english.www.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Ho, Lok-sang (21 April 2020). "Understanding the roles of the HKMAO and Liaison Office". China Daily. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  11. ^ Kuo, Lily; Davidson, Helen (28 September 2020). "Who runs Hong Kong: party faithful shipped in to carry out Beijing's will". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  12. ^ "China replaces head of its Hong Kong and Macau affairs office". Reuters. 12 February 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  13. ^ a b Zheng, William; Xie, Echo (13 February 2020). "China upgrades Hong Kong affairs with new chief". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  14. ^ Burns, John P. (1990). "The Structure of Communist Party Control in Hong Kong". Asian Survey. 30 (8): 748–765. doi:10.2307/2644496. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 2644496.
  15. ^ Wong, Natalie; Cheung, Gary; Zheng, William (24 May 2021). "Beijing to expand Hong Kong office, adding security and propaganda departments". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  16. ^ "Hong Kong elections spark G7, EU, Five Eyes condemnation". South China Morning Post. 21 December 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  17. ^ "G7 Foreign Ministers' statement on Hong Kong Legislative elections | EEAS Website". www.eeas.europa.eu. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  18. ^ "国务院港澳事务办公室:国务院港澳办负责人就《"一国两制"下香港的民主发展》白皮书答记者问". www.hmo.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  19. ^ "G7 Expresses Concern Over Hong Kong Leader's Election". Time. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Hong Kong's chief executive election a 'violation of democratic principles': EU". South China Morning Post. 9 May 2022. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  21. ^ "国务院港澳事务办公室:国务院港澳办发言人:美西方少数国家的聒噪阻挡不了香港由治及兴的发展大势". www.hmo.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  22. ^ "國務院港澳辦強烈抗議和譴責美國國會參議院通過"香港人權與民主法案" - 中華人民共和國國防部". www.mod.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  23. ^ "Texts adopted - Digital Services Act ***I - Thursday, 20 January 2022". www.europarl.europa.eu. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  24. ^ "国务院港澳事务办公室:国务院港澳办发言人:欧洲议会所谓涉港决议是废纸一张、笑话一个". www.hmo.gov.cn. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  25. ^ "The law of the people's republic of china ("PRC") on safeguarding ..." (PDF).
  26. ^ "Gov't edits press release after contradicting Beijing on constitutional status of its Hong Kong office". Hong Kong Free Press HKFP. 19 April 2020. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  27. ^ "What sparked Hong Kong's biggest mass arrests under national security law?". South China Morning Post. 6 January 2021. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  28. ^ a b c "Beijing official calls talk of emigration wave from Hong Kong 'inappropriate'". South China Morning Post. 20 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.