Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong chief executive set to meet Xi Jinping at Apec forum in Lima

Meeting comes as Hong Kong prepares for the chief executive election in March, and in the wake of the oath-taking saga

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2016, 5:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 7:31am

China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to meet Hong Kong’s leader at the Apec forum in Peru on Sunday, as the city continues to be embroiled in one of the biggest constitutional crises since the handover.

The meeting also comes as Hong Kong is preparing for the chief executive election in March, a race on which Beijing has not sent any clear signals as to who it will back.

Tipped to be vying for re-election, Leung Chun-ying arrived in Lima a day ahead of Xi – and he will return to Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport on Saturday to greet Xi as he arrives.

The two leaders are considered on equal footing in the 21-strong Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, thanks to Hong Kong’s special status in the global economy.

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But on the sideline of the summit, as was the past practice, Xi will be Leung’s superior, delivering whatever message he might have for the people of Hong Kong.

All eyes are on how Xi will comment on Leung and his administration as the pair meet on Saturday – not only because Beijing recently intervened in Hong Kong’s independent judicial system when it disqualified two anti-China lawmakers, but also amid speculation that the central authorities will have to signal how many – and who – it will back in the race for the city’s top job.

Hong Kong’s court disqualified two young lawmakers who advocate Hong Kong independence in a lawsuit instigated by Leung.

During the Legislative Council swearing-in ceremony on October 12, Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching swore allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”, instead of to Hong Kong as part of China, and used derogatory language to insult China.

It remains to be seen whether Beijing would find favour in Leung’s handling of pro-independence voices in Hong Kong.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Hong Kong officials said it would be “unlikely” for Xi to send signals on the chief executive election – a topic that Beijing considered an internal matter – on an international occasion.

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They added that Beijing may wish to give signals closer to election day, in order to prevent an ugly contest like the 2012 election between Leung and archrival Henry Tang Ying-yen.

Before he left Hong Kong, Leung sidestepped a question about whether he would seek Xi’s instruction on re-election, saying only that their dialogue should focus on Apec-related matters.

Asked if he would relay to Xi Hongkongers’ concern over Beijing’s disqualifying two lawmakers through reinterpreting Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, Leung said: “Under international circumstances like now, I think President Xi will have a busy schedule with leaders from different countries.”

“I believe there will be meetings with Xi – because we will attend meetings together,” Leung added. He did not answer further questions after arriving in Lima.

As of last night, Hong Kong officials were understood to be preparing for the logistics of Xi’s meeting with Leung.

The Apec encounter will be followed by Leung’s annual reporting duty in Beijing next month. He is expected to meet both Xi and Premier Li Keqiang – a more likely timing for Hong Kong’s 1,200 voters to receive hints about the chief executive election.