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Thursday, Aug 05, 2021

Vetting role no longer interests Ronny Tong

Executive Councillor Ronny Tong has made a U-turn, saying he would not accept a role in a vetting committee for Hong Kong candidates even if he is up to the job and nominated for the post.
Hours earlier he said on a radio program that he has the ability to be a member of the committee vetting the eligibility of election candidates as proposed in the electoral system resolution passed by the National People's Congress on Thursday.

Tong said in the morning that he is willing to join the committee, but it could be opposed by both the pro-democracy and pro-establishment camps due to "prejudices" against him.

"I am willing to make any contribution to Hong Kong society, but some people may think I have prejudices, as the pro-democracy camp thinks I am pro-establishment while the pro-establishment camp think I am pro-democracy," he said.

"I think I am suitable [to join the committee], but other people may not think so."

He also advocated that people who have credibility, such as retired judges, can join the committee.

But in the afternoon, Tong said in Bamboo Rock, a YouTube channel of his group Path of Democracy, that while he is capable of being a member of the committee, "whether he is suitable is another thing and he will not take up the post even if someone appointed him."

He believed the committee will need people that "everyone thinks are neutral," as one's political stance may affect the decision and whether people think that decision is reasonable.

"Everyone knows I am a political figure, I have my own political beliefs," he said.

"Just like what I said on the radio, the pro-democracy camp thinks I am pro-establishment, the pro-establishment think I am pro-democracy, so if I am a member of the review committee, both sides may question any decision I make," he said, adding such questions from both camps will not help with the public acceptance of the committee.

Meanwhile, on day two of the three-day forums by Beijing officials to gauge opinions over electoral changes, the deputy director of the Hong Kong Macao Affairs Office, Zhang Xiaoming, said the changes cannot be done without the lead of the central government.

He said the changes cannot be done using the "five-step" procedure - requiring the chief executive to submit a proposal to the NPC Standing Committee, before the reform bill can be passed by at least two-thirds of the 70 Legislative Council members and then approved by the chief executive and the NPCSC again - as in the past.

Luo Huining, director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, said the central government keeps communicating with the SAR government and Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on the process of improving the city's electoral system.

He also said principal officials are responsible for the SAR government and also responsible for the central government.

A number of principal officials attended yesterday, including the Secretary for Security, John Lee Ka-chiu, the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung and Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Leung said he is happy to have additional meetings for local legislation on electoral changes in Hong Kong.

"There are three elections coming up and they are urgent within the time limit. The Legco will cooperate with the law amendment," he said.

"But the problem is we do not have meetings on March 31, April 7 and 14. If the government needs to table the bill for first and second reading, we are happy to have meetings."

Separately, Lam said there are difficulties completing local legislation for electoral changes before the Legco election in September. The government will announce whether the Legco election will be held as scheduled on September 5 or postponed a second time.
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