Leung remains silent on trade seats
Chief executive candidate Leung Chun-ying yesterday refused to give an assurance the controversial functional constituencies would be abolished by 2020 if he won the top job.
He also declined to discuss the matter despite unveiling his manifestos for executive and political structures and social welfare.
'We still have eight years to reach a consensus on this rather controversial subject and it is difficult to predict the social situation at that time,' said Leung. 'This is not the right time to explain my stance on that.'
Functional constituencies are chosen by a narrow electorate but Leung proposes increasing the number of voters for the 30 trade-based seats for the legislature in 2016.
The next chief executive, who will take over from Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in July, will be expected to spell out his views on the formation of the 2016 Legislative Council election, paving the way for the public election of all lawmakers by universal suffrage in 2020.
But both Leung and his main rival, former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, have been coy on the issue of functional constituencies.
Repeatedly asked by the media whether the 'reformed' functional seats under his regime would stay in 2020 - in whatever format - Leung said only: 'I can assure you this is not a trap.'
In a 22-item constitutional chapter, Leung made no mention of the proposed national security legislation - as stated in Article 23 of the Basic Law. 'Discussion of Article 23 will not appear in my remaining policy manifestos,' said Leung, referring to the sports, culture and environment chapters. Tang's campaign office also refused to comment on the issue yesterday.
The universal pension fund and standard working-hours legislation, two controversial topics, were also both unmentioned in Leung's social welfare manifesto. Instead, he proposed creating a special old-age allowance with a simple means test to improve livelihoods for poor elderly people.
Elderly people who passed the test could get around double the current HK$1,035 monthly allowance.
Meanwhile, the top Beijing official in the city said the central government has no preferred candidate in Hong Kong's chief executive election, after weeks of rumours suggesting Henry Tang Ying-yen was favoured in the mainland's corridors of power.
Dr Peng Qinghua, head of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, fended off the notion that Beijing had a desired candidate in the leadership race.
'[The] elections have to be held in a fair and just manner in accordance with the law,' he said. 'It is impossible that the central government has a favourite.'