Crucial for next Hong Kong leader to have central government’s trust, according to Beijing official

Central government also considers chief executive race as a battle over jurisdiction of city, Wang Guangya told Hong Kong politicians and professionals

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 11:14pm

A top Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs has stressed the most important criterion for the city’s next leader is having the central government’s trust.

The official also said the central government considered the chief executive race as a “battle over the jurisdiction” of the city, according to politicians and professionals who met him.

The South China Morning Post understands that Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Wang Guangya and other top officials overseeing Hong Kong affairs met a number of the Hong Kong politicians and professionals in Shenzhen earlier this week.

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Wang told them the central government’s top echelon had made a collective decision to back former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in the election. “Wang described Lam as the most capable contender for the top job, adding that the central government was optimistic about the prospects of her campaign,” a professional who met the director told the Post.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, convenor of the moderate Path of Democracy think tank and former Civic Party lawmaker, said he met Wang in Shenzhen on Wednesday but declined to disclose the Beijing official’s comments during the one-on-one meeting. “We discussed topics such as the chief executive election and Wang sought my views on the capability of the four aspirants,” he said.

Wang told the Hong Kong politicians that Beijing’s trust in the next chief executive was the most important criterion among the four he cited during his interview with pro-Beijing Bauhinia magazine in December.

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Five years ago, Wang had suggested that the leader must love the country and love Hong Kong, be able to win the support of Hongkongers, and be capable of governing. In his recent interview with the magazine, he added a fourth criteria: the leader must be someone Beijing can trust.

During his separate meetings with Hong Kong politicians, he said it was normal for candidates’ popularity to fluctuate.

Lam, who lags behind arch-rival John Tsang Chun-wah in opinion polls, admitted last month that there would be questions over her governance if she was picked by the 1,194-member Election Committee but trailed her rivals in terms of popularity.

Wang also said Beijing saw the coming election as a battle over the jurisdiction of Hong Kong. He emphasised the central government’s power to appoint the leader selected in Hong Kong was substantive, and not procedural.

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A Hong Kong government source earlier revealed Wang and Zhang Xiaoming, head of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, had tried to dissuade Tsang from running, warning him at separate meetings last year the central government would not appoint him if he won.

But on Thursday, Tsang rejected suggestions he would not be appointed if he emerged as the winner next month.