Beijing has last word in Hong Kong leadership race, delegates told

NPC chairman lists criteria for city’s next leader and says central government’s power to appoint the chief executive is not a ‘rubber stamp’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 March, 2017, 6:50pm

With three weeks to go before the chief executive election, the state leader who oversees Hong Kong affairs has emphasised Beijing enjoys a “substantive and constitutional” power to appoint the city’s leader.

During a meeting with delegates from Hong Kong and Macau to the nation’s top advisory body in Beijing on Saturday, National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang listed Beijing’s four criteria for the next chief executive: he or she must “love the country and love Hong Kong”, be trusted by Beijing, be capable of governing, and be supported by the Hong Kong people.

Hong Kong leader CY Leung voted in as delegate to China’s top political advisory body

Zhang, the Communist Party’s third-ranking leader, was quoted by Hong Kong delegates as saying that he hoped to see an “honourable fight” in the run-up to the race. He stopped short of naming candidates or confirming whether front runner Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was the central government’s preferred choice.

But according to a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference standing committee, Chan Wing-kee, the state leader said: “Beijing’s standards for the chief executive are much higher. It is not like the requirements for a head of policy bureau.

“Zhang said the chief executive has an important status.”

Hours earlier former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, the underdog in the race who enjoys the most mass appeal, said he “can’t see why the central authorities would decline to appoint me as chief executive. I have been a principal official since 1999”.

Zhang was addressing more than 200 Hong Kong and Macau delegates to the CPPCC at a closed-door meeting in Beijing on Saturday. He was accompanied by Hong Kong’s outgoing chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who was given a prominent seat at the meeting. Leung is expected to be elected a CPPCC vice-chairman on March 13..

Chan said that during the meeting, Zhang gave a 20-minute speech on his latest take on Hong Kong issues.

“Zhang said the central government’s power to appoint the chief executive is not a ‘rubber stamp’, but substantive,” Chan said.

“He is confident that a chief executive, who fits Beijing’s standards, would be elected … and the standards are ‘love the country and love Hong Kong’, trusted by Beijing, capable of governing and supported by Hong Kong people.”

CPPCC delegate Lau Siu-kai believed it was clear that Zhang felt choosing a chief executive was not only Hong Kong’s internal matter but a matter of concern for the nation’s security and development.

CPPCC standing committee member Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen cited Zhang as saying he expected an “honourable fight” in accordance with the law in the leadership race, meaning a reasonable competition and clean election campaign.

Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said Zhang had offered no new direction on the chief executive election as the criteria for chief executive had been mentioned earlier.

 

Apart from the chief executive race, state broadcaster CCTV reported that Zhang had said “the fundamental objectives of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle are to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interest, as well as to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macau”.

“Hong Kong and Macau shall have better developments as long as they safeguard the basis of ‘one country’ and make the most of the benefits of ‘two systems’,” CCTV said.

Additional reporting by Stuart Lau