Proposal yielding power to remove chief executive in any circumstances alarms democrats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 12:00am

A proposal to give Beijing the power to remove the chief executive in any circumstances has been criticised by pro-democracy legislators as excessive and a deliberate misinterpretation of the Basic Law.

The Basic Law outlines situations under which a chief executive can resign or be impeached by the Legislative Council, but it provides no mechanism for his actual removal from office. Nor does the mini-constitution contain provisions for Beijing to remove the chief executive.

However, the Chief Executive Election Bill includes a proposal giving Beijing the authority to remove the chief executive if he resigns, is impeached or 'under any other circumstances'.

Legislators yesterday agreed a provision for the chief executive's removal should be made, but criticised the 'any circumstances' measure.

Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming said he was disappointed by the proposal.

'What kind of high autonomy do we have?' he asked at a Legco meeting on the bill. 'Beijing has obviously given [the SAR a chance to elect the chief executive] but the Government is now handing this back to Beijing on bended knee. It is a very ugly situation and the world is looking at us.'

Party colleague Cheung Man-kwong accused the Government of deliberately misinterpreting the Basic Law. 'Allowing Beijing to appoint the chief executive does not mean they can reject the election result and remove the chief executive,' he said. Another Democrat, Yeung Sum, said the proposal was unacceptable.

Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, said it would call into doubt the entire process of electing a chief executive.

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong chairman Tsang Yok-sing said the SAR rather than Beijing should have the power to remove the chief executive.

Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Robin Ip Man-fai denied the proposal would give Beijing too much power. 'We just state under what circumstances the post of the chief executive will be vacated and a by-election needed,' he said.

He also dismissed a suggestion the Government wanted to delegate the power to remove the chief executive to Beijing. Mr Ip said the Government's interpretation of the Basic Law was that Beijing had the authority to appoint and remove the chief executive.

The bill has been drawn up to provide the legislative framework for the chief executive election, scheduled for March next year.