Remarks on election ban for those calling for end to ‘one-party dictatorship’ are not official statement, Beijing envoy says

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, weighs in on Tam Yiu-chung’s comments

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 11:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 12:01pm

Beijing’s top man in charge of Hong Kong affairs has said a senior local politician's remarks on election eligibility were not “official statements” though he understood why he said them.

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, was referring to a warning last week by Tam Yiu-chung, that anyone calling for an end to “one-party dictatorship” would be at risk of being disqualified from running for ­local office.

Zhang made the comments to a delegation from the Path of Democracy think tank visiting Beijing from Wednesday to Sunday.

A person with knowledge of the matter said Zhang had told the think tank delegation that Tam’s remarks were “not official statements”. “But you just can’t expect mainland officials to come out and criticise [Tam],” the person said on Saturday.

Speculation had been rife over whether Tam’s views represented the central government’s stance because he was Hong Kong’s sole representative to China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

Tam, 68, is a former chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic ­Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and a former legislator.

Mainland official agrees with Hong Kong poll ban for anyone decrying ‘one-party dictatorship’

Earlier this month, the NPC passed constitutional amendments that further underscored the Communist Party’s authority.

While the world focused on the scrapping of President Xi Jinping’s term limit, a line was added to Article 1 of China’s constitution with a description of the party’s leadership as “the most essential feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics”.

Path of Democracy convenor, Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is also a member of the Executive Council, said: “I think that Hongkongers and politicians need to respect the country and the country’s constitution … it’s not an issue worth even debating. We just need to accept that.”

Tong, who had a private meeting with Zhang on Friday, took his 32-member group to meet the mainland official on Saturday. Zhang was present only briefly ­because he had other appointments but his deputy, Feng Wei, stayed for the whole meeting.

The former pan-democrat said Zhang took him to a park on Friday to see the cherry blossoms, describing their time together as “special, romantic and theatrical”.

Tong said that under the principle of “one country, two systems” Hong Kong had its own laws to regulate local elections, adding he did not see any reason at all that anyone needed to support the Chinese Communist Party to run in elections.

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“However, there could be huge constitutional problems if Hongkongers running for elections do not respect the country’s governance system,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tam said on Saturday that his warnings were his personal views and not messages from Beijing.