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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:52pm
NewsHong Kong

Beijing liaison chief hints at screening of CE candidates

Beijing liaison chief tells lawmakers that universal suffrage in 2017 could also see mechanism to 'sieve' hopefuls to protect national sovereignty

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 12:16pm


  • Yes: 64%
  • No: 36%
17 Jul 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 292

Beijing's top man in Hong Kong has dropped the clearest hint yet that a screening mechanism could play a role in selecting future chief executives.

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, also said that national sovereignty and security must be protected as the city achieves universal suffrage by 2017.

It is by no means an unreasonable demand that national sovereignty, national safety and the rights of the central government must be well protected
Zhang Xiaoming

During a lunch with 50 lawmakers on his unprecedented visit to the Legislative Council, described by one as "cordial on the surface", Zhang delivered strong messages in a friendly and sometimes jocular tone. But outside the building later he took a tougher line, slamming the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign, which he said would be a disaster with "lasting consequences" for Hong Kong.

He told lawmakers: "There is no doubt of the central government's position - and sincerity - to support Hong Kong achieving universal suffrage.

"[But] the methods must follow the actual situation of Hong Kong, which means it is not a country. It is by no means an unreasonable demand that national sovereignty, national safety and the rights of the central government must be well protected."

Radical lawmakers were on their best behaviour - there were no objects thrown or slogans chanted. "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung gave Zhang a book on the Communist Party's pledge for democracy during its struggle against the Kuomintang in the 1940s, while People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen offered another book entitled Don't Want to be a Chinese in My Next Life.

The three then left the dining hall after presenting their gifts.

Zhang used another gift - a sieve given by lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee - as a metaphor to illustrate the advantages of a screening process. "What is the sin of a sieve?" he asked. "It was our ancestors' wisdom that invented the sieve. Otherwise how can we sift fine grains from coarse grains? We cannot simply deny that a sieve has its function."

Video: Beijing envoy, Hong Kong lawmakers in landmark talks

Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the meeting was "cordial on the surface" but there was "a lot of tough talk" on universal suffrage. "The hint of a screening process also touches a nerve as it gives a very bad message that universal suffrage in 2017 will not be a genuine one that reflects the people's will," Lee said.

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit believed Zhang was not serious with his metaphor.

"The most effective sieve would be one that let millions of voters sift the candidates that they do not prefer," he said.

Beijing-loyalist Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, played down the metaphor. "I do not think it has anything to do with electoral reform," he said.

Nineteen of the 27 pan-democratic lawmakers attended, while Zhang brought 11 colleagues from the liaison office.




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This article is now closed to comments

Why is everyone always getting agitated about things Beijing says ? (I am not a friend of Beijing but I have been raised in a democracy where we allow, by constitution, freedom of opinion) .
Before even starting to discuss about and rejecting Beijing's sieve, has anyone ever bothered to ask how the sieve is defined and what the criteria would be for the sieve ?
All the critics of the "sieve" of today wouldn't qualify for a jury in court because they declare the defendant to be guilty before the trial has even started.
All major democracies with universal suffrage have sieves. E.g. you need to be of certain age, need to be citizen of the place, shall not want to overthrow the countries system, shall not be in prison at the time of election - to name just a few. And the list goes on and on.
Before anyone can condemn the idea of a sieve, let the relevant people and authorities explain in detail how a sieve for Hong Kong would look like Give all parties involved the benefit of a doubt - because that is an important part of democracy.
Good analogy. "The sieve" should be the people of Hong Kong as opposed to a Chinese-made sieve which weeds out only the good seeds.
The reason is that some people do not even understand how elections are run in Western countries and are being brain washed and used by certain people for those people's political motives. Those are people who cannot accept that Hong Kong is part of China. Which is why no matter how good CY is performing or whatever China proposes, they immediately object and come up with ideas that are contrary to the Basic Law.
From the footage shown on TV, I am quite impressed by the poise, the intelligence, and the quick thinking of Mr. Zhang. Very few local officials and pan-democrats, other than perhaps Mrs. Carrie Lam have shown this kind of quality. These pan-democrats should learn from him.
I hope Mr. Zhang is pragmatic enough to understand that HK people will accept a screening mechanism to filter out louts like Long Hair, but will not accept a screening mechanism that filters out politicians like Alert Ho.

I am not particularly fond of Mr. Ho. He's an attention seeking opportunist. But he should still be allowed to stand for election to be CE as long as he is not confrontational nor provocative to Beijing.

There are so many things that can be improved in HK. I'd like to see Alert use his brain to try to solve these issues. I don't think I've ever heard a single solution come from Mr. Ho's mouth. I only hear a lot of rhetoric.
Let's just hope that the "screening mechanism" is merely going to be a variation of the nominating procedures used in 2012 since that'll allow pan-democratic candidates to stand for election. Anything that totally screens out pan-dems is going to be complete rubbish; it will result in very poor turnouts, and will provide even less legitimacy than the current electoral methods.

At least with the current electoral methods, polls clearly do indicate which CE candidate is favored by the people even if they don't have the opportunity to vote for them. That limited sort of legitimacy will be gone if there's a 10% turnout rate for the 2017 CE election.
Healthily Cynical
I'm torn .. should I be cynical about 'democracy with Chinese characteristics' or over joyed at what is actually a massive move towards democracy? Let's have a vote, your options are:
(a) over joyed, or
(b) over joyed
The UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21:
1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives....
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
So Hong Kong people are to be denied their basic human right to stand for election. There should be no sieve, no qualification. Everyone has a right to stand for election.
What is proposed is universal suffrage in name only. 'Everyone can vote, but only for the people we choose.'
Go head and let them screen potential CE candidates...I do not think they will be ready for the public's reaction. The result will surely have more of an impact on Hong Kong than any Occupy Central movement could ever have.
To me, there was nothing groundbreaking or relationship-mending about the speech by Zhang. It was all rhetoric and he was just reiterating his previous stance on universal suffrage/occupy central, etc.
And why should we trust this sieve dictated by Beijing? Before we can think about giving them any "benefit of the doubt" they should fix their atrocious human rights record- release Liu Xiao Bo and other so-called dissidents, justice for the murder of Li Wang Yang, redress the unjust confinement of Zhao Lian Hai amongst others. Not to mention weeding out corruption from the highest levels and opening up their paranoid choke-hold on the internet and media censorships. This list just goes on and on..
"All the critics of the "sieve" of today wouldn't qualify for a jury in court because they declare the defendant to be guilty before the trial has even started." <- to quote loosely from a famous HK tv drama.. "We are not in a court of law... what we see with our eyes and hear with our ears are evidence!"
Are you a HK-lover or Beijing-lover? We may "only" be an administrative region but this doesn't mean that we need to kiss their ****s... HongKongers do have backbones and we should uphold our moral standards



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