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Sunday, Apr 18, 2021

Stand on your own feet, ex-Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa urges loyalists

Stand on your own feet, ex-Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa urges loyalists

Former chief executive says Beijing is well aware of the existence of vested interests in the city and will properly handle proposed changes.

Former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa has called on the city’s pro-establishment camp to make earnest efforts to stand on its own feet following an overhaul of the city’s electoral system.

During a meeting in Hong Kong with senior media executives on Monday, Tung also said Beijing would properly handle the potential entrenchment of vested interests arising from its proposal to empower the committee that chooses the city’s leader to nominate all candidates for the Legislative Council and send some of its own members to the legislature.

Tung, Hong Kong’s first postcolonial chief executive from 1997 to 2005, is currently vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top advisory body.

Speaking as the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing started to deliberate the proposed changes on Hong Kong’s electoral rules, Tung stressed the city should not copy the model of Western democracy as such a move would “do more harm than good”.

NPC vice-chairman Wang Chen last week told the opening of the Communist Party’s annual plenary session there was a pressing need to eliminate “loopholes and deficiencies” that had enabled “anti-China, destabilising elements” to threaten national sovereignty and security.

Under the plan, the establishment-dominated Election Committee, which selects the chief executive, is expected to grow to 1,500 members from the current 1,200, and be given considerable power in relation to Legco.

Analysts have warned future Hong Kong leaders might face more constraints when Beijing loyalists pack the committee as vested interests will have more say.

Asked whether giving more power to the committee would result in such an issue, Tung said the central government was well aware of the existence of vested interests in the city.

“It’s sensitive timing and the central government will handle the issue properly,” he said.

Responding to a question on whether the pro-establishment bloc should try to stand on its own feet after the electoral rules were changed, Tung said the camp should be aware who its constituents were.

“You should know what you stand for, and why do you want to do this and that,” he said.

Asked if the opposition had no future, Tung said there was no room for advocacy of Hong Kong independence. He added that both the pro-establishment camp and opposition had to win the support of the public.

“Hong Kong shouldn’t copy the model of Western democracy as such a move would do more harm than good,” he said.

Tung, chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, which aims to encourage dialogue between the two nations, also said Beijing would not change its stance on Hong Kong despite Washington’s sanctions on the country and the city.

He said it would be “very foolish” for Hong Kong if it did not capitalise on China’s rapid economic development.

“If I have the opportunity to meet those in Hong Kong who intend to emigrate to other countries, I would urge them not to leave Hong Kong because the prospects are here,” he said.

The former chief executive said he watched a documentary about the development of Singapore during his flight back from Beijing on Sunday.

“Singapore has surpassed Hong Kong in governance. We must catch up quickly,” he said.

Meanwhile, the 83-year-old, who fell over at the end of the opening of the NPC’s plenary session in the Great Hall of the People on Friday, said his physical condition was “perfectly OK”.

Tung, who was not injured and left with the help of other delegates, had been among hundreds of officials sitting on stage and had been walking down when he fell.

Back in December 1997, Tung tripped at a voter registration campaign while he was chief executive.

“I have been doing exercise regularly to strengthen my limbs since the 1990s,” he said on Monday.

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