Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong has issued a thinly veiled accusation that some people in the city could be "brainwashed" by pan-democratic bodies or the Apple Daily in the debate about political reform.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government's liaison office, made the suggestion last night during a 30-minute speech at the United Youth Association's annual dinner. "I was thinking, if I am a man who has grown up in Hong Kong, what would be my first reaction after the decision was made?" Zhang said, referring to the national legislature's recent decision on the city's political reform.
His following cryptic comments were understood to refer to the Apple Daily - a newspaper that could be eaten like an apple; and to the pan-democrats - described by Basic Law Committee chief Li Fei on Monday as people who dedicated their lives to the "roads", i.e. street protests.
Zhang said: "Of course, the prerequisite would be that I haven't joined a body that dedicated its life to the roads, nor have I been reading a newspaper that was 'eaten by the mouthful', otherwise it would be hard to say whether I could be brainwashed. But I think my first reaction would be that this decision should be welcomed."
On Sunday, the National People's Congress Standing Committee ruled that only two or three candidates with the support of over half of a 1,200-member nominating committee could stand for chief executive in 2017.
Zhang said he noticed that the framework for Hong Kong's first universal-suffrage election had been criticised as stringent and conservative. "I understand this, and frankly speaking, some rules are quite strict - but they are strict for legal reasons."