Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, who spent the week lavishing praise and attention on Macau to send a message to a certain other island that used to be a foreign colonial possession, used a speech commemorating 20 years of Chinese control over Macau to warn that Beijing will not accept interference by “external forces” in the Hong Kong crisis.
China’s state-run Global Times reported “warm applause” from the audience in Macau in response to Xi’s declaration that China has a “rock-hard” determination to “safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.” According to the report:
Xi commended on the work of Macau SAR in the past 20 years. Macau firmly safeguarded the central government’s comprehensive administration and used its high-degree autonomy in the right manner, enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law and the National Anthem Law, Xi said.
Xi shared Macau SAR’s four experiences in successfully implementing “one country, two systems.” They are the firm dedication to “one country, two systems,” confidence in the political system to never get perplexed by external interference, recognizing that “one country” is fundamental of “two systems,” highlighting responsibilities that Macau SAR should shoulder in line with the national development plan, and strengthening social fundamentals of “one country, two systems.” The most important reason for Macau’s successful implementation of “one country, two systems” is patriotism, Xi said.
SAR stands for Special Administrative Region, the limited autonomy China promised to allow Macau and Hong Kong when it took control back from Portugal and the United Kingdom, respectively. Hong Kong discovered the limits of that autonomy far more quickly and unpleasantly than Macau, for reasons ranging from cultural differences between the two islands and the nature of their economies to pronounced differences in the way they were administered by Portugal and Britain.
Xi (and the “analysts” constantly invoked by the Global Times to validate Chinese Communist Party positions) sought to address criticisms that Hong Kong’s political crisis makes a mockery of the “one country, two systems” promise China made to its special autonomous regions – a lesson taken to heart on another island that Beijing would like to transform into the most special administrative region of all, Taiwan:
Xi’s speech sends a clear message to the world that the confidence in implementing the “one country, two systems” principle won’t be shaken, analysts said. Considering Hong Kong’s turmoil in recent months, Macau’s practice of the principle tells the world that China’s SARs could successfully implement it, they said.
Successful experiences of implementing “one country, two systems” in Macau serve as a “reminder” for Hong Kong, indicating loopholes exist in Hong Kong’s legal and judiciary systems that lead to weakening the way of safeguarding national security and sovereignty, analysts said.
Beijing’s exasperation with Hong Kong makes it increasingly prone to hold up Macau as the shining example Hong Kong should emulate, the well-behaved big brother it should try to be more like. The Global Times used its “experts” to assert that Macau’s better relations with Beijing expose the “weakness” of Hong Kong, whose people have less “respectability” than those of the other island.
Xi gushed with praise for Macau’s outgoing Chief Executive Chi Sai On and his officials, congratulating them for adhering to the “Basic Law” of their Special Administrative Region, which is somewhat different from the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
“The central government fully acknowledges the work of all of you,” Xi told them.
Xi then presided over the swearing-in ceremony for new chief executive Ho Lat-seng and brought some performers on stage to serenade him with a Communist Party anthem called “Sing for the Motherland.”
Australia’s ABC News noted Xi was taking no chances on Macau’s patriotism flagging or unrest from Hong Kong spilling over during his visit. Red Chinese banners were everywhere, security was tight, rail services – used aggressively by Hong Kong protesters to move around, and also frequently targeted by demonstrations – were curtailed, and foreign journalists were barred from entering the city.