Beijing signals rethink on HK delegates

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2012, 12:00am


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Hong Kong's delegation to the nation's top advisory body should reflect the wider population and not just the business sector as the city moves towards universal suffrage, one of Beijing's top officials on Hong Kong affairs says.

Chen Mingyi's comments yesterday could signal a shift in the central government's traditional 'united front' policy. Under the policy, it seeks to build a broad base of support from beyond the Communist Party in the run-up to 2017, when the city is due to elect its chief executive by universal suffrage for the first time. The policy in Hong Kong has long involved wooing the business elite.

Chen, deputy director of the Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese Affairs Committee of the CPPCC, said 90 per cent of Hong Kong's delegation of about 200 to the CPPCC is made up of businesspeople. The CPPCC began its annual meeting in Beijing on Saturday.

'There is a historical reason for the high proportion of Hong Kong delegates from the business community,' Chen said during a panel discussion. 'In the early stage of [the mainland's] reform and opening up ..., many Hong Kong businessmen who made a certain amount of investment on the mainland were appointed as CPPCC delegates.

'With Hong Kong preparing for universal suffrage in 2017, there is a need to recruit more people such as intellectuals and professionals from sectors such as science and technology, health and the media.'

He said the changes should take effect when the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference's new five-year term begins next year.

The 71-year-old was a party secretary of Fujian province in the 1990s, where Vice-President Xi Jinping was his deputy. Xi is expected to be named as President Hu Jintao's successor this year.

Veteran China-watcher John Lau Yui-siu said businesspeople accounted for fewer than half of local CPPCC delegates two decades ago.

'But the proportion has increased significantly since then because of Beijing's need to step up its united front [strategy] towards Hong Kong's business community,' Lau said.

A mainland academic familiar with Hong Kong affairs agreed that the number of businesspeople among Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC was disproportionately high.

'There is a need to recruit more delegates from other sectors in Hong Kong,' he said, adding that Chen 's views represented the thinking of a number of mainland officials.

Businessman Vincent Lo Hong-sui, a local CPPCC delegate, said: 'Chen has a point ... the overwhelming majority of local delegates are from the business sector. More delegates from other sectors should be appointed.'

Lau doubted the delegation would change significantly.

He also said businesses had shown no sign of taking a more proactive role in politics even as universal suffrage nears.