Patriotism - Beijing's requirement for Hong Kong's chief executive candidates in 2017 - should not be defined as being pro-Beijing or pro-establishment, says Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.
Pan-democrats can also meet this prerequisite, Tsang said yesterday. He also clarified that he did not say the central government would allow someone popular but "unpatriotic" to be a candidate, saying his words had been twisted by some media reports. "I'm not that sick in the head."
Tsang said he agreed with Basic Law Committee member Rao Geping's explanation of what Beijing meant by patriotism, but said Beijing-loyalists held no patent on "love of country and love of Hong Kong". According to Rao, someone who upholds the Basic Law and China's sovereignty over Hong Kong was considered patriotic.
"Can we really say that no one within the pan-democratic camp qualifies?" Tsang said, adding that pan-democrats should not be arbitrarily dismissed from running for the top job. "Someone might have published opinions that would be seen as confronting Beijing and opposing some stipulations of the Basic Law, but such a one-off comment doesn't mean they've completely lost the ability of loving the country and loving Hong Kong."
Asked if members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Democratic Movements in China, which has called for the vindication of the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown and the end of one-party rule, were patriotic, Tsang said the chief executive - who is officially appointed by Beijing - should not be calling on the regime to step down.
Rather, he said: "If you oppose [the regime] ruling China … then you should confront it."The pro-establishment veteran hoped the pan-democrat legislators would join next month's Shanghai trip to address reform directly with Beijing officials.
Meanwhile, 17 pan-democrats enter day four of a hunger strike today as part of their fight for meaningful political reform. Legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, of the pro-establishment New People's Party, doubted the campaign would have much affect.