Beijing loyalist Maria Tam Wai-chu will be elevated to vice-chairwoman in a committee that advises the central government on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, taking the place of former justice minister Elsie Leung Oi-sie, sources told the Post.
Her promotion is part of a reshuffle in the 12-member Basic Law Committee, that comes under China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).
The committee gives input on any interpretations or amendments to the Basic Law and will also be consulted if the NPCSC wants to add or delete national laws applicable to Hong Kong in Annex III of the mini-constitution.
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Tam, 72, was a member of the Executive and Legislative Councils when Hong Kong was governed by Britain. In the run-up to the city’s handover to China, she was involved in drafting its new principles of governance under the “one country, two systems” concept and later became a member of the Basic Law Committee, when it was established on July 1, 1997.
But the barrister on Tuesday refused to say if she would replace Leung, who was appointed vice-chairwoman of the committee in 2006.
“I cannot confirm anything, sorry,” Tam said.
Another deputy of the Basic Law committee, Zhang Rongshun, will move to Beijing’s liaison office in Macau. He is known for his tough-talking ways – earlier this year, he said the NPCSC’s approval of a joint checkpoint at Hong Kong terminus of the high-speed rail to the mainland was an “act of state” that Hong Kong courts had “no jurisdiction over”.
In 2016, he was quoted as telling a delegation that Beijing would respond with “guns and cannons” to any push for independence in the city.
Zhang Rongshun’s place will be taken by Zhang Yong, who is a vice-chairman of the NPCSC’s Legislative Affairs Commission.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a City University law professor, will also be appointed to the Basic Law committee.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Tam’s promotion was a “sensible” choice given her experience, though he believed anyone sitting on the post would only “give nods to whatever Beijing says”.
On Zhang Rongshun’s move, Lau said: “Zhang is not a legal expert but he can be said to be a hardliner … Beijing is probably of the view that the Hong Kong political work is now largely under control and there is no need to install a hardliner in the Basic Law Committee.”
Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official think tank, the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, however warned against “overly interpreting” what he considered “usual personnel arrangements”.
“Beijing’s Hong Kong policy has been decided by President Xi Jinping. We did see former Beijing liaison office head Zhang Xiaoming being transferred to head the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and former Macau liaison chief Wang Zhimin coming to succeed Zhang.
“But so far, we have not seen any major change of the central government’s Hong Kong policy,” Lau said.
The NPCSC began one of its regular meetings on Tuesday and will discuss and endorse the appointments on Friday, sources said.
This article Beijing loyalist Maria Tam tapped for Basic Law Committee promotion: sources first appeared on South China Morning Post