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Mainland graft buster finds raft of issues in Hong Kong, Macau office

A key mainland agency that oversees Hong Kong ­affairs is in the spotlight, amid questions about what Beijing will do next, after it was criticised by the nation’s top graft buster for weak leadership, corruption risks and ineffectiveness in enforcing orders.

The Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection revealed the findings of a recent inspection on the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council on Friday night.

The commission said the inspection, which was conducted between July and August, had identified problems and that it was now dealing with the office on the findings.

The report came ahead of the party’s sixth central committee plenum, which starts on October 24, with ­revamping decades-old codes of conduct for party members expected to be high on the agenda.

No HKMAO officials were named in the 2,155-word report, except for a response from HKMAO director Wang Guangya, who was quoted as saying the office would sincerely accept the recommendations and work them into the implementation of the “one country, two systems” policy of Hong Kong.

“The inspection team found, and officials [from the HKMAO] reflected, some problems,” chief inspector Ning Yanling said.

Ning said the party’s leadership in the office was not strong enough, nor was the implementation of the central leadership’s decisions firm.

Also, the choice and use of personnel was not satisfactory, there was no timely reshuffling of grass-roots personnel, there was lax management of the party and they took up more office space than allowed and for too long.

The office should strengthen its leadership and “push forward new developments in the work on Hong Kong and Macau”, and strictly adhere to political discipline, Ning said.

It should also attach high importance to the “corruption risks” existing in the leadership and their subordinates, and step up monitoring on the use of funds, he added.

Ning went on to say that the HKMAO had “made certain achievements” in implementing the party’s basic requirement regarding the work on Hong Kong and Macau and the strengthening of party discipline – “not a good evaluation”, a mainland official familiar with the mainland authorities’ work on the two cities, told the Post.

“The report also made some no-nonsense comments which have the smell of gunpowder,” said the official, who declined to be named.

The report was released after commission head Wang Qishan announced in June that inspection teams would be sent to the HKMAO, as well as National People’s Congress agencies including the Basic Law Committee for Hong Kong and 29 other ministerial-level party and government organs.

It is part of President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption drive, aimed to cover all party and central government organs as well as all state-owned enterprises.

Before the inspection, the internal control body assigned an official to join the HKMAO in January to oversee its discipline inspection work.

China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said it was hard to suggest what political implications the report had to Hong Kong because of the vagueness.

“The report gave no specifics about the problems identified and no official is named. It is the party’s internal check and there is no transparency of the disciplinary action and improvements that may be made,” he said.

Others feared certain actions could follow. Ronny Tong Ka-wah, former moderate lawmaker who met HKMAO deputy director Feng Wei in April, said he was worried the report could signal a tightening in Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong.

“The HKMAO officials have been considered more liberal-minded than other mainland officials,” Tong said. “Now they are criticised and there may be possibility of a reshuffle, I don’t see how it can be good to Hong Kong.”

He added that the report added to the uncertainty of the expected change in HKMAO personnel, as Wang Guangya is retiring next year.

Democratic Party former chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said he was “puzzled” about the commission’s remarks too. “There has been speculation about a reshuffle of the liaison office, which has been slammed for meddling in Hong Kong too much. But I don’t know how this probe into HKMAO can be related to the liaison office.”