HK leader Leung Chun Ying rewarded with new post

President Xi Jinping (right) congratulating the Hong Kong Chief Executive after he was voted yesterday as vice-chair of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
President Xi Jinping (right) congratulating the Hong Kong Chief Executive after he was voted yesterday as vice-chair of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It shows Beijing appreciates Mr Leung Chun Ying's firm stance against pro-independence

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying has been elected a vice-chairman of China's top advisory body, in what is seen as recognition from Beijing for his firm handling of pro-independence forces in the southern Chinese city.

He was voted as vice-chair of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the close of the body's annual session yesterday by an overwhelming 2,066 votes, with just 13 opposition ballots and 16 abstentions.

But this has not gone down too well with Hong Kongers.

The advisory body is made up of political parties, organisations and independent members whose role is to advise the legislature. Being given a position in the CPPCC is a form of reward for retiring officials.

After Mr Leung's nomination last Friday, CPPCC standing committee member Chan Wing Kee was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying: "He was nominated as CPPCC vice-chairman because of his contribution to Hong Kong, in particular, his firm stance against the Occupy Central movement and putting an end to it. It was also because of his firm stance against pro-independence advocacy and cracking down on it."

Mr Leung had sent in the police to break up the 2014 student-led Occupy protests demanding more political freedom. After some pro-independence politicians were voted into the city's legislature last September, he filed suits to bar them from taking office.

Speculation that Mr Leung might be inducted into the CPPCC leadership had been rife last December when he announced that he would not be seeking a new term in the March 26 election.

His tough stance towards pro- independence forces made him extremely unpopular among Hong Kongers and observers in the city thought then that it was Beijing's view that he should not stand for election as he may just scrape through or even lose.

But the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office put out a statement then, saying he "has made important contributions in defending national sovereignty and security".

Mr Leung's election as a vice-chairman while still holding office as Hong Kong's Chief Executive showed how appreciative Beijing is of his work.

Hong Kong's first Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa became a vice-chair only after leaving office in 2005.

President Xi Jinping walked up to Mr Leung to shake his hand and chatted with him for a minute at the close of the session yesterday.

"I think Xi Jinping was really appreciative of (Mr Leung's) efforts in fighting the Hong Kong independence movement," said Hong Kong-based analyst Willy Lam.

"And so, they thought, since he won't be going for a second term, they should give him a very hefty consolation prize," he added.

Other Hong Kong observers questioned whether Mr Leung's dual role contravenes the city's mini-Constitution, which states that no mainland Chinese authority shall meddle in the city's internal affairs.

More than 20 pro-democracy lawmakers wrote a letter this month to CPPCC chairman Yu Zhengsheng to protest the move to elevate Mr Leung to CPPCC leadership.

One of them, lawmaker Kwok Ka Ki of the Civic Party, said yesterday that Mr Leung "didn't help Hong Kong in any way".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'HK's Chief Executive rewarded with new post'. Print Edition | Subscribe