Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 08:04
Hong Kong is only an SAR in China: Carrie Lam
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said some discussions regarding political reform had “deviated from” the fact that Hong Kong is only a special administrative region in China, which enjoys a high degree of autonomy under national law.

The chief secretary heads the high-level task force which gauges public views on the implementation of universal suffrage in the 2017 Chief Executive (CE) Election. She raised her latest concerns at a seminar hosted by prominent business chambers and industrial associations in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

She stressed that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and comes directly under the central government. But it’s still entitled to exercise a high degree of autonomy, Lam added.

“As a local administrative region, the system in the HKSAR is prescribed by the national constitution and legislation. The central government has the constitutional duty to provide the systems in the HKSAR, including its political system,” she said.

Without elaborating, Lam said some reform proposals had failed to recognize the Basic Law and, therefore, the true political situation in Hong Kong. “Many discussions have already deviated from (the fact) that the HKSAR is only a place that exercises high degree of autonomy,” she said.

Lam stressed that these legal boundaries must be strictly observed. But she also appealed for patience from business leaders, explaining that the public need time to get to grips with constitutional requirements, especially the issue of the nominating committee.

“If you force a person to accept an idea without him understanding the legal basis, he will be prone to the sloganeering that dominates his thoughts on how the CE election should run,” she noted. Lam also admitted that past efforts to promote the Basic Law had been inadequate.

Some speakers called for “definite” rejection of the notion of “civil nomination”. But Lam said it would be inappropriate to judge a “four-Chinese-character term” (referring to “civil nomination”) without reading detailed information derived from the concept.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen confirmed that any plans attempting to bypass the nominating committee would have no chance of fitting into the legal framework. Tam also said he could not scrutinize shallow slogans shouted by pressure groups.

He acknowledged that some ideas to make the nominating committee more “broadly representative” might fail. For example, Tam questioned how an eligible voter could be qualified in the new “female” sector if this was intended for full-time housewives. Resistance was also expected from existing sectors if they lost seats to new sectors.

The opposition has insisted on letting up to eight candidates run in the 2017 CE Election. But Tam said some lawmakers admitted during Monday’s dinner at Carrie Lam’s official residence that such a crowded field would be unlikely. “It’s better to think about the realities of Hong Kong,” he advised.

Another dinner was hosted at Carrie Lam’s official residence on Tuesday evening for 16 legislators, including five members of the opposition camp.

Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the Business and Professional Alliance for Hong Kong said they had discussed size of the nominating committee, nomination by petition and the future of party politics.