China’s Communist Party to meet to review key polices, Hong Kong protests
Beijing, Oct. 24 (PTI): China’s ruling Communist Party would meet here on Monday after an unusually long delay to discuss the leadership’s handling of Hong Kong’s unprecedented pro-democracy protests, the economy’s slowdown and the US deal to end the trade war.
The 25-member Political Bureau (PB) which is the top policy body of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Thursday decided to hold the fourth Plenary session from October 28 to 31 here, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The meeting was presided over by President Xi Jinping who continues to retain a firm grip on power, holding the key posts of the General Secretary of the CPC, head of the military besides the Presidency, becoming the most powerful leader after party’s founder Mao Zedong.
Observers say the significance of the top decision-making bodies of the CPC since the advent of Xi to power in 2012 has declined as he firmly established his stamp of authority, doing away with the past system of collective leadership.
Xi was re-elected for a second five-year tenure last year by the National People’s Congress (NPC) which also scrapped the two-term rule for the President, paving the way for his lifelong tenure.
The Plenary session is a closed-door meeting of the party’s roughly 370-member Central Committee, which is also its high powered decision making body.
It will be the fourth plenary session after the 2017 party congress, ushering in Xi’s second term in office. The last plenum was held in February, 2018.
Among other issues, the Plenary meeting is also expected to discuss Xi’s second informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India and its outcome, informed sources said.
“It is the first full meeting of the Central Committee in nearly 20 months, the longest interval between two plenums as they are officially called in recent decades” Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
“The wait, seen by some China-watchers as a delay, has fuelled much speculation about discord within the party, as it grapples with headwinds from a trade war with the United States, slowing economic growth and since this summer a political crisis in Hong Kong.
“But others argue that given the previous plenum was convened ahead of schedule, the meeting this time does not amount to a delay,” it said.
Ahead of the meeting, speculation is rife about the lack of shared views among the top echelon of the party about the crisis faced by China on various fronts.
The Plenary meet which facilitates the formulation of key strategies and review of policies in the year is taking place after the annual gathering of top party leaders at the summer sea side resort of Beidaihe in August, which paves the way for informed consultations among them.
The focus of the party in recent months remained how to handle the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who functioned under the CPC authority, followed a flip-flop policy to deal with the mass protests over the extradition bill which sparked fears among local people that those facing criminal charges could be extradited to the mainland.
In the last 21 weeks, Lam first refused to withdraw the bill and later declared it dead but declined to meet the protestors demand to completely scrap it.
As the agitation increasingly turned violent and with the protests continuing, Lam-led local government on Wednesday officially withdrew the bill in the local legislature in what was seen as a setback to the hardline policy followed by the CPC leadership in handling the protests.
The agitation is expected to continue as the protests have now transformed into a campaign for greater democratic changes in the former British colony.
The protestors, mainly youth, are demanding Lam’s resignation, inquiry into police brutalities and universal franchise of one person one vote with freedom for all the locals to contest the elections for the local legislature.
Also, the Plenary meeting is taking place as China and the US have broadly agreed over the contours of “phase one” deal to end over yearlong bruising trade war which negatively impacted China’s economy. The world’s second largest economy in the last several years remained on a slowdown mode.
The phase one deal was expected to be signed next month.
The talks so far were deadlocked as China continued to resist US President Donald Trump’s demand for intrusive verification mechanism to supervise Beijing’s promise for protection of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), technology transfer and more access to American goods to Chinese markets.
Trump kicked off the trade war in June last year demanding China to reduce massive trade deficit which climbed to over USD 539 billion in 2018.
“The point of this plenum is to institutionalise the party’s effort to strengthen its absolute and comprehensive leadership of the country and society since the 19th party congress,” political analyst Chen Daoyin told the Post.