Universal suffrage in Hong Kong
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Zhang Dejiang met with Leung Chun-ying on Saturday to discuss political reform. Photo: Xinhua

New'Patriotic' chief executive candidates should never question one-party rule: Zhang Dejiang

Mainland's top official on Hong Kong affairs says some pan-democrats could be considered patriots; EU says it is 'closely following' reform process

Some of Hong Kong’s pan-democrats could meet Beijing’s requirement that the city’s next chief executive be “patriotic”, but they should never call on the Communist Party to end its rule if they want to run for leader, the mainland’s top official on Hong Kong affairs has said.

Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the National People’s Congress, was quoted as using a Chinese idiom – “river water should not intrude into well water” – to urge some pan-democrats to mind their own business under the principle of “one country, two systems”, as he addressed business leaders over the weekend.

That’s according to Liberal Party lawmaker Vincent Fang Kang and Stanley Lau Chin-ho of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, who were among those meeting with Zhang.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Monday welcomed the beginning of the formal reform process marked by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s report to the NPC last week, saying it was following the process closely and looks forward to the “forging of an ambitious consensus”.

Lau spoke to RTHK on Monday about Zhang’s comments over the weekend. “[Zhang said] the radical pan-democrats have urged an end the one-party rule and [have condemned] the Communist Party,” Lau said.

“[He asked] if future chief executive hopefuls would also call on the Communist Party to step down ... and chant such slogans to confront China.”

Pan-democrats have in the past used the same idiom to condemn Beijing’s interference in the city’s internal affairs, such as elections.

Zhang, the third-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, told his audience that not all pan-democrats were “radical” and there were some who could be regarded as “loving the country and Hong Kong”, said Fang.

Beijing has repeatedly stressed that chief executive candidates must be patriotic; pan-democrats argue the requirement will be used to bar them from running for election when ordinary Hongkongers vote for their next leader for the first time in 2017.

Zhang met with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in Shenzhen on Saturday to discuss political reform, after Leung delivered a controversial report to the NPC last week which laid out views on changes needed for the election.

The report was criticised for ignoring or playing down public views on reform.

On Monday, the EU said it had taken note of the publication of the report, in a statement released by the spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

“The EU welcomes the start of the five-step process which will lead to the introduction of universal suffrage for the election of the Chief Executive in 2017,” the statement reads.

“The EU is following this process closely and is looking forward to the forging of an ambitious consensus among the parties involved, within the framework of 'one country, two systems'."

During a three-day stay in Shenzhen, Zhang also met with representatives from chambers of commerce, pro-establishment parties and individuals including NPC delegate Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie.

It is understood that Zhang will meet members of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions on Monday, alongside mainland officials – chairman of the Basic Law Committee Li Fei, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Wang Guangya and director of the central government’s liaison office Zhang Xiaoming.