Political heavyweights Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Chan Yuen-han have hit back at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's remark that problems from the previous administration led to his flagging popularity.
The pair hinted that having to deal with unresolved issues from one government to the next was no excuse for Leung; instead the problems should be seen as opportunities for him to prove his worth.
Leung laid the blame for his drop in support on his predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Friday. "My administration is not playing a new game of chess, but a game that existed on June 30 [the day before Leung took office], a game that was already under way," Leung said.
Fan, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, countered yesterday that Leung's remark might give the public an impression that he is trying to shirk responsibility.
"No new government takes office without playing the game of chess that was already under way," Fan said. "If the game that existed is not played well, it could be [the opportunity for the new player to] turn around and win." Fan also put a spin on the low popularity figures, saying it was an opportunity for government to win support.
Speaking separately, Chan Yuen-han, the honorary president of the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Trade Unions, endorsed Fan's view.
"Hong Kong people expect our government to have an open heart, and face Hong Kong's problems, you cannot just haggle over your own situation."
However, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, lawmaker from the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, believed Leung was only trying to explain his situation and was not shirking responsibility.
Meanwhile, Basic Law Committee deputy chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-see said in a public lecture that there was an anti-communist sentiment in Hong Kong, She insisted that under the Basic Law, the central government has a role in Hong Kong affairs, and "to [read] everything that the central government does as intervention … is negligence in reading the Basic Law."
Leung reiterated her belief that the solution to address the swelling number of mainland women giving birth in Hong Kong would be for the chief executive to submit a report to the NPC, the mainland's highest state body, asking for an interpretation of the Basic Law.
At the centre of the debate is the granting of permanent residency to children born in Hong Kong. Some critics say the influx of mainland mothers giving birth in the city puts a strain on medical and educational services.
In a landmark case, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in 2001 that mainland baby Chong Fung-yuen, who was born in Hong Kong, had the right of abode, regardless of her parents' immigration status.
The ruling contradicted the NPC's 1999 interpretation of the Basic Law that denied permanent residency to children born outside the city before either parent was a permanent resident.