Patriotism and Basic Law ‘non-negotiable’ for chief executive election in 2017
Both principles vital to chief executive election, top Beijing official tells Shenzhen meeting; while those who seek independence have 'no future'
Joyce Ng in Shenzhen and Peter So
Failure to comply with the Basic Law and the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong would amount to turning the city into an independent political entity, a top mainland official told lawmakers yesterday.
The warning was issued by Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, at a seminar on reform in Shenzhen, which pan-democrats say failed to narrow their divide with Beijing.
"Since the handover, there has always been a group of people who do not approve of the central government's right to govern Hong Kong … They attempt to maintain the colonial-style rule, which is a real threat to national security," Li said.
He noted that pan-democrats in the seminar had urged Beijing not to be too worried about the impact of reform on national security. "We therefore emphasise that the person who governs Hong Kong must be a patriot."
During the seminar, Li said those who tried to make Hong Kong independent "cannot at all have a political future", "and the best way out for them is to change their political stance".
He criticised people for trying to deviate from the Basic Law and for "relying on foreign influences" in promoting reform.
The seminar, attended by 48 of the city's 70 lawmakers, was a last-ditch effort to close the gap between pan-democrats and Beijing before the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress - the top national legislature - meets next week to lay down a framework for electing the chief executive in 2017.
Afterwards, a session was arranged for 14 pan-democrats to talk directly to Li.
On Wednesday, the 26 pan-democratic lawmakers signed a pledge to vote down any reform proposal that failed to meet international democratic standards.
They fear that a nominating committee, as laid out in the Basic Law, would be formed in such a way that would screen out pan-democratic hopefuls. Some insist on giving the public the right to select candidates.
While sounding a tough note against independence, Li also said most pan-democrats were patriots and the nominating committee could not "stop members of any political parties or camps running".
After the meeting, the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan said he did not think Li's remarks were an attack on pan-democrats. His colleague Helena Wong Pik-wan said "the differences remain obvious, although we had a frank dialogue".
Wong Kwok-kin, of the Beijing-friendly Federation of Trade Unions, urged the Standing Committee to clarify whether international standards applied to Hong Kong, and whether the proposal for 2017 would be the "ultimate" reform opportunity.
The seminar was co-hosted by Wang Guangya , director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Zhang Xiaoming , the head of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong.