Questions for chief executive candidates
A key quality of the future chief executive will be the ability to lobby for Hong Kong within the mainland political system.
The media should question candidates for the post over whether they know what to do.
It may be that the chief executive will have the equivalent of the rank of a minister, and be invited to attend State Council meetings. It is, therefore, essential that he understands how the Chinese Government works.
Further, have the candidates familiarised themselves with regional administration, since within China's hierarchy, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) will have the same ranking as provinces and municipalities? The chief executive is expected to also understand thoroughly how the Hong Kong executive, legislative and judicial systems work.
There will be defence and diplomatic matters beyond the SAR's autonomy where Hong Kong officials will have to liaise with the Chinese Government, like they do with London at present. One of the tasks of the chief executive designate will be to help establish these channels before July 1, 1997. Familiarity with the mainland and Hong Kong administration structures is essential.
Other key mainland institutions the candidates should know about are the military, public security and the Chinese Communist Party. The People's Liberation Army will have a substantial presence in the SAR and Shenzhen. The chief executive designate may have an opportunity to discuss with PLA leaders and the State Council what relationship he should have with the head of the SAR garrison.
Public security bodies in provinces and municipalities come directly under the Chinese Government, led by the Ministry of Public Security. The Chinese Communist Party plays a dominant role in China as it is a one-party state. However, things will have to be done differently in the SAR since it will practise a different system from that of the mainland.
What views do our candidates have about ensuring that these bodies will not have, and will be seen not to have, any role in the SAR? Beijing may be thinking whether the Chinese Government and Communist Party should send representatives to the SAR. The current status is that China's representative Zhou Nan, head of Xinhua (the New China News Agency) is at the same time a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), a senior Communist Party cadre, and a government official. This multiple status has been criticised because executive and legislative roles should not be mixed. What do the candidates think? There has been debate in Hong Kong about whether after 1997 the Communist Party should operate with a degree of transparency, what relationship it will have with the PLA, and how the chief executive will relate to both.
As regards the SAR's relations with provincial and other mainland bodies, it is likely that many of them will show a keen interest in the SAR. It is being debated in Beijing how the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office could assist the SAR in the early days of its establishment to ensure mainland bodies understand the autonomous status of the SAR. Do the candidates have any views on this? Article 21 of the Basic Law provides that Chinese citizens of the SAR shall be able to participate in national state affairs. A plan needs to be devised as to how SAR deputies to the NPC should be chosen in future. The next round of NPC elections will take place in 1998. Have the candidates thought about this? Answers to these questions would help to show whether the candidates are well enough prepared to do the job.