Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said that chief executive contenders cannot ignore the power of the central government over Hong Kong when considering political reform.
The nomination period started on Tuesday. Except for Carrie Lam, the four major contenders in the race have issued full platforms and included sections on political reform.
Leung said the public was concerned about the issue of political reform, but there are currently no signs that Beijing will modify its framework on Hong Kong’s democratic reform.
The framework set in 2014 decided that before a chief executive can be chosen by popular vote, candidates must first be vetted by a nomination committee mostly controlled by Beijing. The decision sparked the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests, and a government reform proposal under the framework failed in 2015.
“Any sincere chief executive contender or contenders in the future cannot ignore at will the power of the central government over Hong Kong and its responsibility over the whole country, including the issue of the chief executive election,” he said.
He said the election cannot be compared to elections overseas. The city has full legislative power and independent finance and therefore greater autonomy than other cities, he said.
“Therefore if you compare the power of the London mayor, the Tokyo mayor, the New York mayor to that of the Hong Kong chief executive, our chief executive has much more power,” he said.
He said he believed that if Hong Kong had the same degree of autonomy as cities in other countries, the Basic Law would not be written in its current form, and the central government would not have to be concerned about which chief executive candidate it can appoint.
The missing platform
Asked about Lam’s delay in putting out a full platform, Leung said: “As the main contenders already have platforms or a preliminary platform, I believe the best method is to hold a direct debate between them. After all, there is only slightly more than a month before the voting day for the chief executive election.”
“Instead of main contenders speaking to each other through the media, I believe they should sit down together to debate their policy ideals, their platforms, and let the public know their abilities to implement their platforms.”
Commenting on Lam’s policy on spending an extra HK$5 billion on education, Leung said education was not an expenditure but an investment.
“We have attached great importance to education, on tertiary education, kindergarten, or keeping teachers’ positions, we have done a lot,” he said. He added that spending in other areas saw a bigger increase compared to education in the past five years.
“We often said that social welfare spending increased 55 per cent in the past years – therefore I believe people agree that this is an aspect that is worth the money. Because we spent more on social welfare, naturally the ratio of spending in education has decreased.”
Leung also commented on the recent report by the Housing Authority which found that waiting time for public housing has increased to 4.7 years, saying the most effective solution is to increase supply.
He urged lawmakers to pass housing projects as soon as possible, saying that it has taken longer and longer to pass things such as funding proposals.
“In the past two or three [LegCo] terms there was a trend where some lawmakers put themselves in the spotlight, kept asking questions, creating a situation wherein they discussed things but a decision was never made. Hong Kong needs social development, economic development – livelihood must improve, we cannot waste time.”
“We hope everyone who has the power and responsibility will cooperate as best as they can,” he said.
A reporter asked Leung to comment on whether the Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was taken against his will from a Hong Kong luxury hotel, whether he left Hong Kong by boat, and whether it was another Causeway Bay booksellers incident that could undermine the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.
“I give you one answer to all your three questions. No one should speculate, no one should speculate on the matter like this. And anyone who has information should provide information to the police,” he said.