China’s top official in Hong Kong has dispelled the notion of a separation of powers in the territory and says the chief executive has authority over the executive, judiciary and legislature branches.
In a speech titled “the correct understanding of Hong Kong’s political system,” Hong Kong Liaison Office Director Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) said he picked a controversial issue to discuss in order to tackle the issue head-on.
“The dual responsibility of the chief executive to the central government and Hong Kong has given him a special legal position which is above the executive, legislative and judicial institutions,” Zhang said at an event commemorating the Basic Law, the constitution under which China governs the former British colony as a special administrative region.
“It should be clear that Hong Kong does not implement the political system of separation of powers,” Zhang said.
“It didn’t before the reunification, nor does it after the reunification,” Zhang added.
Zhang quoted former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) as saying in a 1987 speech that it would be inappropriate for Hong Kong to adopt a Western approach to its political system, such as the concept of separation of powers, according to a transcript of Zhang’s comments posted on the liaison office Web site.
Zhang’s speech prompted criticism from the territory’s pan-democratic figures.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong (梁家傑) said the comments elevate the leader’s status to that of an emperor; while Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) questioned the changing interpretation of the Basic Law, the South China Morning Post reported.
Zhang’s comments are not new, Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said in a release from the Hong Kong government.
The chief executive is accountable both to the central government and to Hong Kong, Lam said.
Differences over political reform set off almost three months of protests last year. Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers rejected a China-backed election plan for the city in June, leaving in place the current system, where the chief executive is chosen by a 1,200-member committee of Hong Kong’s mostly Beijing-friendly political and economic elites, rather than by the city’s voters.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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