NPC chairman tells CY Leung Hong Kong must 'strictly follow' basic law in electoral reform
Chief executive and senior officials summoned to Shenzhen for unscheduled meeting, where they are told to strictly follow the Basic Law
Joyce Ng and Gary Cheung
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A top Beijing official told Hong Kong officials they must "strictly follow" the Basic Law in working out their electoral reform proposal when he unexpectedly summoned them for talks in Shenzhen yesterday.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revealed he and three senior colleagues had met Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People's Congress, four days after Leung submitted a report on reform to the NPC.
It is the first time the chairman of the nation's top legislature has travelled to Shenzhen to give instructions on political reform to Hong Kong leaders.
One political commentator interpreted the surprise meeting as a "courtesy" before Beijing firmly rules out letting the public nominate candidates when the city picks its leader by universal suffrage in 2017.
Others said it showed that Beijing wanted to guide the reforms.
The meeting came on the day that Beijing loyalists launched a campaign to gather signatures against Occupy Central, the movement that plans to blockade streets if a plan for "genuine" democracy is not forthcoming. Organisers said they collected 200,000 signatures yesterday.
Leung said Occupy was not discussed.
The chief executive said Zhang told the Hong Kong delegation that Beijing hoped a consensus could be forged so that universal suffrage could be achieved on schedule in 2017 and in accordance with the law.
Zhang said Beijing would uphold "one country, two systems" and maintain a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong.
Asked what Zhang thought about public nomination, Leung said: "Zhang reiterated the long-standing position … We have to strictly follow the provisions of the Basic Law and also the stipulations of the NPC Standing Committee's decisions."
Beijing and its supporters insist only a nominating committee will be allowed to pick candidates. Pan-democrats fear the committee will be stacked with Beijing loyalists and "filter out" critical but popular candidates.
The NPC's Standing Committee meets next month to draw up a framework for reform before the Hong Kong government draws up a detailed proposal.
Leung - who was joined by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and constitution minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen - said he would seek to create opportunities for communication between sectors in Hong Kong society and Beijing before that discussion.
Political commentator Lau Siu-kai said: "I won't be surprised if the NPC Standing Committee lays down detailed guidelines."
Analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu believed Zhang's visit was a "courtesy" before Beijing takes a hard line, ruling out public nomination and setting firm rules.
Beijing loyalist Cheng Yiu-tong expected Beijing would insist candidates receive the support of more than half the nominating committee. That is the threshold advocated by the Federation of Trade Unions, of which Cheng is honorary president.
While two Beijing-loyalist lawmakers hoped to meet Zhang in Shenzhen, Dr Chan Kin-man, co-organiser of Occupy Central, said his group would not seek talks with Zhang.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said her party would be willing to talk "if Beijing showed sincerity".