Universal suffrage in Hong Kong

Rational approach can ease tensions, liaison chief Zhang Xiaoming says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 6:23am

Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong yesterday called on Hongkongers to adopt a broader strategic view and a rational attitude in tackling the problems arising from integration between the city and the mainland.

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, said he hoped that the chief executive elected by universal suffrage in 2017 would be patriotic and have both the central government's trust and Hong Kong people's backing.

These criteria - in line with Beijing's expectations of the city's leader - were given two days after Yu Zhengsheng, a Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member, emphasised the importance of ensuring that Hong Kong was ruled by patriotic forces.

Zhang was speaking at a closed-door meeting with local deputies to the National People's Congress in Beijing.

His remarks were made amid heated debate on whether a limit introduced by the Hong Kong government - banning travellers from taking more than two tins of infant formula out of the city each day - was appropriate.

Zhang is the third senior mainland official to raise the topic of the milk-powder conflict between Hong Kong and the mainland this week.

Yu and another Politburo Standing Committee member, Zhang Dejiang , who is tipped to head the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs, had earlier stressed the importance of handling the conflicts rationally.

Ma Fung-kwok, deputy head of Hong Kong's NPC delegation, said Zhang Xiaoming acknowledged that "minor problems" had arisen from mainlanders buying luxury homes in the city during visits.

[Mainlanders buying luxury homes in Hong Kong] could have caused fluctuations in prices, and if it hindered the local services from satisfying Hongkongers' needs, the problems have to be … tackled quickly.

"It could have caused fluctuations in prices, and if it hindered the local services from satisfying Hongkongers' needs, the problems have to be … tackled quickly. We must not avoid them," Ma quoted Zhang as saying. Meanwhile, Hong Kong should avoid hurting mainlanders' feelings when tackling these matters.

Ma said Zhang also called for Hongkongers to take a "broader strategic view" in their relationship with mainland China, instead of just sticking to the interests of the city alone.

"[Zhang emphasised that] Hong Kong has to look at problems with a long-term point of view, and in analysing whether something is beneficial for Hong Kong, the nation's development strategies must [also] be taken into account," Ma said.

A local NPC deputy said Zhang also noted the controversy stirred in the city from Yu Zhengsheng's remarks that it would not be good for the country nor the city if "opposition forces" ruled Hong Kong after universal suffrage was attained in 2017.

"He said that what Yu said was in line with the central government's stance - that the chief executive must love China and Hong Kong," the deputy said.

Choy So-yuk, a Hong Kong NPC delegate, said: "Every government would have [similar] requirements for a regional head. But it is still meaningful to mention this again."