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Plenum promises Hong Kong autonomy, judiciary independence

People walk past Chinese paramilitary policemen and plain clothes policeman as they stand guard near the portrait of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing.

People walk past Chinese paramilitary policemen and plain clothes policeman as they stand guard near the portrait of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing.  

China’s ruling Communist Party on Thursday vowed autonomy for Hong Kong where pro-democracy protesters have locked horns with the city administration for over a month on the election of next Chief Executive and stop interfering in the judicial process to make it more independent.

The plenum of the Communist Party of China (CPC) comprising of 363 members promised to “guarantee the practise of ‘one country, two systems’” in Hong Kong, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted a statement issued at the end of the four day meeting chaired by CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping.

This is the fist time that plenum, the highest policy body of the party was held after Mr. Xi took over power last year emerging as the most powerful Chinese leader in recent times heading the Party, Presidency and the Army.

The reference to ‘one country, two systems’ in the official statement is seen as an assurance to the thousands of protesters in Hong Kong that China would keep up with its commitments to ensure the autonomy of the former British Colony which joined the mainland China in 1997.

Thousands of protesters blocked key roads in Hong Kong for over four weeks demanding China to revoke a law to vet candidates to take part in the 2017 polls for its Chief Executive. The first direct election for the city’s Chief Executive is to be held in 2017.

While promising to implement rule of law stopping the interference of party functionaries and officials in the functioning of judiciary, the plenum also expelled six senior officials including a top PLA general Yang Jinshan for corruption but remained silent on probe relating to top retired party leader, Zhou Youngkang, who is being probed for graft.

It promised to expand the scope of the independence of the judiciary to protect individual rights but only under the Party’s leadership. A communiqué released after the four-day party plenum said the legitimate rights of the people should be protected, but added that the rule of law could only be achieved under the party leadership.

Mr. Zhou, a member of the powerful Standing Committee headed by former President Hu Jintao is the first such high level official to be probed. He was being probed under the campaign against corruption launched by Mr. Xi, who succeeded Mr. Hu last year to restore the credibility of the CPC, stating that it was riddled with corruption.

Conventionally, no investigations would be instituted against top retired officials of the CPC. But Mr. Xi for the first time broke the tradition and ordered a probe against Mr. Zhou.

The anti-graft campaign which netted dozens of high level officials also built pressures and resentment with in the CPC. The omission of Mr. Zhou’s name is seen as significant in this regard.

Official analysts said that the emphasis on rule of law was to liberate the judicial system from the administrative and party functionaries at provincial and local levels and ensure judges become more independent. The plenum also called on National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s Parliament to set up system to examine the legitimacy of major decision-making with a lifelong liability for major decisions and a mechanism to backtrack liabilities.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 4:10:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/plenum-promises-hong-kong-autonomy-judiciary-independence/article6528427.ece

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