Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has warned residents that they must respect the fact that the city’s political system was uniquely created by Beijing, not copied from any foreign model.
Leung made the remarks in his third video speech in a week, released before the plenary session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), which is set to kick off on Friday. Top state officials will discuss China’s next five-year plan and are also expected to look into an overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system.
“Beijing gave us the unique ‘one country, two systems’ deal. We took it 31 years ago with our eyes wide open,” Leung said.
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His video speech came a day after he talked about electoral reforms and was asked about the possibility of contesting the next election for Hong Kong’s leader.
In an interview with RTHK on Wednesday, he said all eyes were on how Beijing would ensure the implementation of the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong”.
“I don’t want to create another focus on whether Leung Chun-ying will run for chief executive. I don’t want to stir up so much talk on this at this stage,” he said.
It was not the first time the former Hong Kong leader appeared ambivalent on a political comeback.
Asked during an interview with the Post last October whether he was considering a run for the top job, Leung said: “I don’t have such a plan at present, but I will keep my interest in Hong Kong politics, given my experience.”
In his first eight-minute video last week, Leung warned that the city could not expect its leader to enjoy the high degree of autonomy granted by the central government, yet disregard Beijing’s role in selecting a candidate, pointing out that “we cannot have our cake and eat it”.
In the second instalment released on Tuesday, Leung said residents had to recognise that Hong Kong was not an independent country like Singapore, and it should therefore respect Beijing’s authority.
In the latest episode, Leung started off by noting that prominent opposition figure and media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was a British citizen.
“Lai has been labelled by the international media as the top democrat in Chinese Hong Kong. But Jimmy Lai is not a Chinese national,” Leung said, referring to the tycoon who is currently facing a charge of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
“The timing was interesting. In 1997 when Hong Kong became Chinese, Jimmy Lai became British. So what is the definition of ‘democracy’ in Chinese Hong Kong where the mastermind, the banker and the loudhailer of the so-called democratic movement, Jimmy Lai, is British?”
Leung also noted that unlike in other countries, foreigners in Hong Kong could be registered as voters or even take up certain seats in the legislature.
“Foreigners are entitled to vote in Hong Kong provided that an individual, barring migrant workers, has lived here continuously for seven years or more and has thereby become a permanent resident,” Leung said.
“We also allow foreigners to occupy up to 20 per cent of the seats in our Legislative Council – the lawmaking body that has much wider powers than any other city legislature in the world.”
To all the do-gooders, the know-alls, and the holier-than-thous, I say this: Hong Kong is not a copy of parliamentary democracy
CY Leung, former Hong Kong leader
Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s top politicians, such as the chief executive, chief justice, principal officials, government advisers in the Executive Council, as well as the Legco president and all lawmakers in geographical constituencies have to be permanent residents with no right of abode in any foreign country.
Out of the remaining 35 lawmakers in functional constituencies, only one each from the 12 sectors can hold foreign passports. They are from the legal, accountancy, engineering, tourism, commercial, industrial, banking, insurance, financial services, architectural, real estate, as well as import and export sectors.
Leung argued that as opposition activists called for genuine democracy, they must understand that “no genuine democracies have foreigners in their legislature and foreign voters in the election process”.
“To all the do-gooders, the know-alls, and the holier-than-thous, I say this: Hong Kong is not a copy of parliamentary democracy. We are not a copy of anyone. And we shouldn’t be,” he added.
“To all those who keep pushing the Hong Kong democracy envelope, I have a word of caution, be careful, you never know when the envelope breaks and what drops out.”