It’s not too late to shape Beijing’s mind on reform, liaison office tells pan-democrats

Central government's top representative says no decision has been made and pan-democrats can still influence NPC Standing Committee ruling

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 2014, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 August, 2014, 7:27am

Beijing's top man in Hong Kong told pan-democrats their meetings with central government representatives had not come too late to shape its decision on the city's political reform, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming said Beijing valued pan-democrats' opinions, which he would convey "truthfully", according to Frederick Fung Kin-kee of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.

Zhang has said the nomination process cannot be completely open

Lawmakers told Zhang that genuine universal suffrage was not incompatible with national security and would enhance Hongkongers' sense of belonging to the country, said Fung.

Yesterday's 110-minute meeting at the government's offices in Admiralty - attended by four pan-democrats - was the second of four being held ahead of a meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress next week.

"Suggestions have been made that the meetings with pan-democrats have come too late and would be meaningless. Zhang disagreed with this view," Fung said. "Zhang said Beijing officials would attach great importance to what [pan-democrats] tell them in the four meetings with him and the seminar in Shenzhen this Thursday."

All 70 lawmakers have been invited to the Thursday meeting and 49 have so far agreed to attend, including "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung of the radical League of Social Democrats.

"It can't be said that a decision has been made," a source quoted Zhang as saying.

Other sources said Zhang had agreed on the principle of "no unreasonable restriction" on the nomination process, but also said the chief executive had to be "a staunch patriot" who could be trusted by Beijing.

One source said there were differences of opinion on the interpretation of "unreasonable restriction", with pan-democrats demanding an election model for 2017 that guarantees a genuine choice of candidates.

Pan-democrats fear the Standing Committee will rule out allowing the public or political parties to nominate candidates, and it will also demand that hopefuls need the backing of half of the nominating committee.

"Zhang has said the nomination process cannot be completely open and should take the city's actual situation into consideration," the source said. "Otherwise, there would be a constitutional crisis of not appointing the [person] elected if he is a populist or not trusted by the central government."

Another source said Zhang had rejected pan-democrats' calls for reform to be in line with international standards by saying there were no worldwide guidelines for universal suffrage.

The Standing Committee will convene between August 25 and 31 in Beijing to decide on reform for the 2016 Legco and 2017 chief executive elections.

Pan-democrats placed a full-page advert in several Chinese-language newspapers yesterday arguing that accepting an imperfect reform proposal would be a betrayal of the next generation.