Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying elected to top national body

Handshake from President Xi Jinping cements unprecedented dual role for chief executive

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 March, 2017, 9:39am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 March, 2017, 12:14am

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was officially elected a vice-chairman of Beijing’s top political advisory body on Monday, giving him the unprecedented dual role of state leader and the city’s top official.

An eye-catching scene also happened as President Xi Jinping shook hands and had a 45-second chat with Leung after he was elected on the last day of the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) plenary meeting.

More respect, but no immunity: what CY Leung can expect from new job on China’s top advisory body

The other six Politburo Standing Committee members also shook Leung’s hand one after the other.

“I hope my position as CPPCC vice-chairman ... will help society in Hong Kong make better use of opportunities offered by sustainable developments in the country,” Leung said.

A total of 2,066 delegates voted in favour of a motion to name him a vice-chairman, with 13 against and 16 abstaining.

Leung dismissed on Monday suggestions he would face a ­conflict of interest with his new role, saying he would handle the two jobs well.

Watch: Leung Chun-ying shakes hands with Xi Jinping

Leung also said Xi offered him “words of encouragement” and he gave a resounding “no” when asked if the president had criticised him.

Asked if he believed some people voted against his appointment because of his controversial HK$50 million deal with Australian company UGL, he said:”I do not know. If you know, you should tell me.”

His CPPCC elevation came just three months after Leung dropped a political bombshell by announcing he would not seek a second term, citing family reasons.

CPPCC spokesman Wang Guoqing said after the session closed: “We congratulate him. He will be able to play a bigger role in exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong in the future.”

Executive councillor Cheng Yiu-tong, also a deputy to the National People’s Congress, said it was extremely rare for Beijing to appoint two people in Hong Kong, a relatively small place in the country, to the now 22-member group of vice-chairmen.

He was referring to the city’s first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, who was appointed after leaving office.

Watch: Leung Chun-ying’s comments to the media on Xi Jinping

“Beijing wants to tell everyone that Leung is trusted by the central government amid all the speculation and criticism,” he said.

Former lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, a local delegate to the CPPCC, said Leung had torn the city apart while chief executive, and he hoped he could now bridge the rift and make full use of his new role to truly reflect Hongkongers’ views to Beijing.

Another CPPCC delegate, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, the ­former head of the city’s graft-buster, said it was a good thing for the city to have two people as vice-chairmen of the advisory body.

He said there was no issue with Leung taking on dual leadership roles, as the CPPCC was just an advisory body that not only covered Hong Kong but the whole of the country.

Leung’s elevation came ­despite strong objections from pan-democrats, who argued the practice went against the principle of “one country, two systems”.

The move also sparked speculation about whether the beleaguered leader would become a back-seat driver in the administration through his new role.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said that Leung had dealt a blow to “one country, two systems” by being both chief executive and a state leader at the same time. He urged Leung to ­resign from his Hong Kong post.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the think tank, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said it was hard to predict if Leung Chun-ying would be a back-seat driver in his capacity as CPPCC vice-chairman after his tenure as chief executive ends in June.

“My view is former chief executives should avoid comment on the city’s affairs so as to minimise tension with the government and criticism from the community,” Lau said.

Tung, who made high-profile comments on the Occupy protests and political reform, launched the think tank, Our Hong Kong Foundation, in 2014 and published a number of policy proposals. He recently expressed his strong preference for chief executive contender Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who is perceived as Beijing’s favoured choice for leader.

Meanwhile, Leung met ­National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang on Monday to discuss how the chief executive election could be managed in accordance with the law.

Beijing officials earlier said Leung was nominated as CPPCC vice-chairman because of his firm stance against the Occupy pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014 and pro-independence advocacy over the past couple of years.