Patriotism need not be laid out in law: Elsie Leung

Basic Law expert dismisses proposed criterion for next leader as Lau Kong-wah skirts question

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 March, 2013, 4:05am

The city's chief executive must be a person who loves the country and Hong Kong to ensure good governance, but it is not necessary to set out this criterion in law, a Beijing-loyalist heavyweight says.

Elsie Leung Oi-sie, a deputy director of the Basic Law Committee, said the chief executive would not care about the betterment of the city if he did not love his homeland.

"We will not stipulate it in law. But we all know that one must love the nation and Hong Kong in order to govern Hong Kong well," she said at a reception last night.

Leung was responding to comments from top mainland officials earlier this month that the city's next leader, who could be elected by universal suffrage in 2017, should love both the country and Hong Kong. Their remarks raised concerns as to whether potential candidates from the pan-democratic camp would be filtered out.

Earlier in the day, acting constitutional and mainland affairs secretary Lau Kong-wah sidestepped the same question in the legislature.

Asked whether love for the nation, or the Communist Party, and for Hong Kong would become criteria for candidacy in the 2017 election, Lau said: "There are different comments and opinions in society … Our future work [on the election] shall be in accordance with the Basic Law and the decision of the National People's Congress Standing Committee."

He added: "Any person who meets those qualification and eligibility criteria can stand as a candidate in the chief executive election. The Hong Kong government will act strictly in accordance with the law to ensure that the election is held in an open, fair and honest manner."

Lau's words prompted criticism from industrial-sector lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, of the pro-establishment camp, who said: "I am very disappointed and frustrated by Lau's response."

He accused Lau of fudging the issue. "Loving the nation and Hong Kong is an essential criterion for the chief executive. It does not have to be listed out superfluously. Why didn't you say it was an essential condition and did not need to be listed out superfluously?" Lam asked.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun, echoing the view of former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, said he expected a consultation on political reform to start by October.

Tien said the reform, concerning the 2016 Legco and 2017 chief executive polls, involved complicated amendments to the law, and delaying the consultation "would not make the controversy go away".