A former senior Beijing official will head a high-level think tank set up to study Hong Kong and Macau affairs, including political reforms, as authorities see problems arising from the "one country, two systems" policy.
Chen Zuoer, former deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, was named chairman of the group at its closed-door formation in Beijing yesterday.
The launch of the National Association of Study on Hong Kong and Macau came two days after Hong Kong began a public consultation on arrangements for the next chief executive and Legislative Council elections.
The timing was a coincidence, the body's secretary general, Chen Duo, said.
The association would take an academic look at deep-rooted problems that had emerged, "at times very vehemently", as the "one country, two systems" principle became more deeply applied in the two special administrative regions, Chen Zuoer said.
"To solve the problems well, not only do Hong Kong and Macau offices need to explore [solutions] actively, but academia also has to summarise and innovate on a theoretical basis," he told state media yesterday.
Wang Guangya , director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, spoke at the launch and said later he believed the five-month consultation on reform would be long enough, contrary to some criticisms.
"Different people and sectors of Hong Kong could think through rationally their expectations of the political reform, and communicate with one another," Wang said. "A consensus could be reached as long as we are rational."
Three of the think tank's nine vice-presidents will be Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of Hong Kong's Central Policy Unit; Rao Geping, a Basic Law Committee member and Peking University law professor; and Wang Zhenmin, Tsinghua University law dean and former Basic Law Committee member.
Chen Duo said the think tank would certainly look at Hong Kong's political reforms, though it "could not possibly set the tone" for the direction of reforms, as it was a civilian group.
"The group will study not only political matters, but also legal and social ones," he said. "We won't suggest any solutions to the central government regarding political reform, but I'd be pleased if the government accepted our members' studies."
A group of Hong Kong delegates met Wang later, Lau said.
They raised issues about politics, governance, economics and education, but little was said about political reform.
"One member talked about political reform, but it was not specifically about the consultation. We talked more about more macro topics," he said.