NPC's law committee chief may clear up chief-executive screening row

Law Committee chairman expected to explain Basic Law statute in order to clear up raging debate on screening future chief executives

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 5:40am

A top National People's Congress official is expected to explain a provision in the Basic Law in relation to universal suffrage, amid growing controversy over the possibility of a screening mechanism in choosing Hong Kong's chief executive.

Qiao Xiaoyang, the new chairman of the Law Committee under the NPC Standing Committee, is likely to touch on the issue during a Shenzhen seminar today, according to Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, without elaborating.

Tam will attend the seminar along with 42 other pro-establishment lawmakers who set off for a study trip to Nansha in Guangzhou and Qianhai in Shenzhen yesterday.

After the seminar, Wang Guangya, director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, will host a lunch for them.

Some lawmakers said they believed the issue of a screening mechanism - which had sparked concerns that pan-democrats could be blocked from contesting the chief executive election - would be raised at the seminar.

"There are many people who interpret it differently. How should we deal with them?" legislator Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung said in Nansha. "If Qiao offers a clear explanation, it would be helpful for our understanding of the process for universal suffrage."

Qiao has visited Hong Kong twice to explain the NPC's decisions on universal suffrage.

Last night, the lawmakers dined with Zhang Xiaoming , director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong. Tam said afterwards that Zhang did not mention political reform.

Instead, Zhang expressedconcerns over the arguments that had surfaced in the city and urged the public to pay attention to what President Xi Jinping had said to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier this month on seeking changes while maintaining stability, Tam said.

"Zhang emphasised the importance of co-development between Hong Kong and the mainland, while stressing that implementation was the key to Leung's governance," he said.

Other lawmakers, who declined to be named, said Zhang voiced concerns of "negative energy" in society and pointed to extreme actions such as filibustering during the debate on the budget. He even cited police figures that the city saw 7,000 protests a year, they said.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, Basic Law Committee member Rao Geping slammed a protest campaign aiming to block roads in Central to demand universal suffrage. Rao rejected the need for a screening process for the city's top job. "There is a timetable, but no road map yet. This road map is something to be discussed by representatives of different sectors of Hong Kong."