Conditions set for future HK chief

Any HK chief who disagrees with central government cannot lead

The writing is on the wall: Anyone who confronts or disagrees with the central government can't be Hong Kong's chief executive.

This was spelled out on Friday by Li Fei, visiting deputy secretary-general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee and chairman of its Basic Law Committee, in a major address on Hong Kong's political reform.

The next chief executive to be elected by universal suffrage must also love the country and love Hong Kong, otherwise the city's relationship with Beijing, and the stability and prosperity it has long enjoyed, would be seriously harmed, Li said at a luncheon hosted by Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and attended by more than 100 community and business leaders.

"How could a person who doesn't love the country and Hong Kong, and who opposes the central government, be accountable to the central government? How could he implement directives lawfully issued by the central government? If such a person becomes chief executive, these Basic Law provisions would become a dead letter," he warned.

Li's remarks were the most forthright since he arrived on Thursday with his deputy, Zhang Rongshun, for a three-day visit for talks on Hong Kong's political structure ahead of the chief executive and legislative elections in 2017 and 2020.

His views were first expressed by Qiao Xiaoyang, director of the NPC Standing Committee's Law Committee, at a closed-door meeting of lawmakers in March.

Li said such a premise for an eligible chief executive candidate is backed on constitutional grounds.

At a closed-door seminar with senior government officials and executive councilors on Friday morning, Li said an enemy of Beijing could not perform certain constitutional roles set out in the Basic Law, thus effectively crippling the provisions.

Article 43 of the Basic Law states: "Hong Kong's Chief Executive shall be accountable to the Central People's Government and the HKSAR in accordance with the provisions of this law."

One of the chief executive's functions, as set out in Article 48, is "to implement the directives issued by the Central People's Government in respect of the relevant matters provided for in this law".

An opponent of the central government, Li said, would hurt Hong Kong's stability, jeopardize the implementation of "One Country, Two Systems", and threaten State sovereignty and national security. "No country would allow a person who seeks to overturn his country to run a locality."

He recalled that paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had also cast doubts on whether universal suffrage could ensure that an elected chief executive loves the country and loves Hong Kong. "Putting it in another way, he said the requirement for a patriotic chief executive must be upheld under the conditions for universal suffrage," Li said.

And he hinted that the proposal to ask Beijing to "keep the last gate" is not workable. "What kind of shock would it cause in Hong Kong if (the central government) refuses an appointment?" he asked.

Article 44 of the Basic Law further provides the criteria for a citizen to contend for the top job, Li said, and there are no unreasonable limits to restrict the right to be nominated. With that in mind, one of the hardest questions to be covered by consultations would be how to ensure that the elected person loves the country and loves Hong Kong.

At the seminar with the top officials, Li Fei also pointed out that the nominating committee provided for under the Basic Law to implement universal suffrage in selecting the chief executive, should be formed in strict accordance with the composition of the electoral committee that picked four Hong Kong leaders since the handover.

That not only followed the decision made by the NPC Standing Committee in December 2007, Li said, but the Basic Law also uses the same term "broadly representative" to describe both the electoral committee and nominating committee. The term should be interpreted consistently unless otherwise stated, he said.

Based on archives, he added, drafters of the Basic Law are making a compromise between the electoral committee model and the "one-person, one-vote" model. The electoral committee was simply turned into a nominating committee with its voting power handed over to all registered voters.

As such, the "industrial, commercial and financial sector", the "professions", the "labour, social services, religious and other sectors", and the representatives of local or national bodies shall, respectively, get an equal slice of representation in the nominating committee, Li said.

He urged the local community to focus on how nominations are made "in accordance with democratic procedures", which are not prescribed in the Basic Law, but every nomination must be made on behalf of the committee to reflect the "collective will" of all members.