State leader Zhang Dejiang meets Hong Kong politicians and business leaders in Shenzhen
Visit comes about a week before nomination period for city’s chief executive election begins
The mainland’s No 3 official Zhang Dejiang has met Hong Kong business heavyweights and local deputies to national bodies in Shenzhen at a critical juncture as the nomination period for the city’s leadership election is set to begin next Tuesday.
A source with knowledge of the matter said that Zhang, the National People’s Congress chairman who is also the state leader overseeing Hong Kong affairs, met representatives of the city’s five largest business chambers on Sunday. Sun Chunlan, head of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, joined Zhang at the meetings.
“It should have touched on the chief executive race ... and candidates,” said the source, who did not attend the meetings.
The business representatives who met Zhang and Sun were from the General Chamber of Commerce; Federation of Hong Kong Industries; Chinese General Chamber of Commerce; the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong; and Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ and Exporters’ Association.
Some delegates to the NPC and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference had also met Zhang and Sun, the source said. Another source said the two met other business heavyweights in Shenzhen again on Monday.
Zhang heads the Communist Party’s leading group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs; Sun is a core member of the group.
Chinese General Chamber of Commerce chairman Jonathan Choi Koon-shum sidestepped a question on whether his group had met Zhang or Sun on Monday.
“The CGCC constantly exchanges views with [Beijing’s] leaders and reflects to them Hong Kong public sentiment,” he said.
Choi added that he had had “multiple” meetings with state leaders in the past, but refused to elaborate. He said it was “very clear” that Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was his chamber’s pick to be the city’s next leader.
Choi said that even though both John Tsang Chun-wah and Lam were “suitable” candidates, “a choice has to be made”. The chamber holds 18 votes in the 1,194-strong Election Committee.
Cheung Hok-sau, president of the Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ and Exporters’ Association, declined to comment on whether a meeting had taken place.
Federation of Hong Kong Industries deputy chairman Jimmy Kwok Chun-wah would not confirm or deny that the federation had met the mainland leaders. But he said it was not surprising that “the central government would like to listen to the views of the business chambers and other groups on various issues” and that it would be surprising if Beijing did not want to know their views.
Kwok added that the next chief executive should have a good relationship with the central government to keep the economy strong. He believed Lam had a better relationship with Beijing than Tsang, citing the speed with which the central government had processed her resignation as chief secretary so she could run in the city’s top job race.
Zhang’s visit came weeks after Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was believed to have met chief executive election candidates in Shenzhen. But only one hopeful, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing , admitted to meeting Wang over the border in early January.
On December 22, Zhang held a closed-door meeting in Beijing with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying during the city leader’s final annual duty visit.
The Election Committee will pick the city’s next leader on March 26. A candidate needs 150 nominations, from the same committee, by March 1 to be eligible, and 601 to win.