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Defeated pan-democratic chief-executive candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan, along with the pro-democracy camp, slammed Beijing for "screening out" from ruling the city those whom they consider as "confronting the central government".
The barrage of criticism came after National People's Congress Law Committee chairman Qiao Xiaoyang was cited by a lawmaker who attended yesterday's closed-door meeting in Shenzhen. It was reported that Qiao said those who called for overthrowing the Communist Party could be seen as confrontational and could not become the chief executive. Qiao also cited an article of Ho's as an example, the source said.
"If he said I called for ending one-party dictatorship, to put it simply, how is it related to patriotism? You can just at best say I don't love the Communist Party," said Democratic Party lawmaker Ho.
"Since I love the nation, I don't want to see one-party dictatorship. He actually equalised the party and the nation, or put the party above the nation."
Ho said it seemed that it was "totally up to Qiao" to define what "confronting the central government" meant.
Civic Party chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, who is seen as a potential candidate for the 2017 chief-executive poll, said Qiao implied that Beijing was "cheating" Hongkongers.
"The threshold would be regressive if aspirants not only had to secure a certain number of nominations, but were also subject to screening before a popular vote," she said.
"What [Qiao] has been saying proves that the pan-democrats have been correct in saying all along that Beijing doesn't want to give Hong Kong real universal suffrage."
In Shenzhen, New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who attended the meeting, said it was too early to draw conclusions about who could enter the race.
"Qiao was not saying that the opposition cannot become the chief executive. He was only saying that those who fulfil the criteria of 'love country, love Hong Kong' can claim the post," she said, adding that Qiao was sticking to principles in the Basic Law.
Starry Lee Wai-king, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said it was "understandable" for Beijing to set the criteria according to the Basic Law.