Rita Fan reignites Article 23 debate
Thomas Chan and Fanny W. Y. Fung
Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai has described the thorny issue of national security legislation as an 'unavoidable challenge' for the next government, sparking suggestions that she is trying to sweeten up Beijing ahead of an attempt to become chief executive.
At the same time Fan, the former Legislative Council president and a member of the National People's Congress standing committee, dropped another strong hint that she is running for the top job.
'It's the government's responsibility to enact Article 23 [of the Basic Law] that covers national security legislation,' she said, referring to legislation shelved by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa after 500,000 protesters took to the streets. 'I think the next government cannot avoid tackling this issue.'
Speaking after the inauguration of a health centre run by the Breast Cancer Foundation, of which she is honorary president, she declined to say if she would run for chief executive but said she would not declare yet if she was, as her expenses would then count against her election budget.
On Article 23, Fan acknowledged that many Hong Kong people were worried, but she insisted it was 'a monster as imagined by many'.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said he saw Fan's remark as an attempt to seek the central government's blessing for her possible candidacy. 'She is trying to solicit Beijing's support, not Hongkongers' support,' Ho said.
But Wong Kwok-kin, a local deputy to the NPC, said Fan would have plenty of chances to tell Beijing what she thought. Her remark could help gauge public sentiment on the measure, he added.