HONG KONG • China's No. 3 official Zhang Dejiang (photo) is meeting Hong Kong business and political heavyweights a week before nominations for the city's chief executive election begin next Tuesday, reported South China Morning Post.
A source with knowledge of the meeting was quoted by SCMP as saying Mr Zhang, the state leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs, was in Shenzhen to meet leaders of Hong Kong's major business chambers, as well as some Hong Kong deputies to two top national bodies, the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
Many of those deputies are Election Committee members from the business and political sectors.
The Election Committee will pick Hong Kong's next chief executive on March 26. A candidate needs 150 nominations from the same committee by March 1 to be eligible, and 601 to win.
The SCMP report said that Ms Sun Chunlan, a core member of the Chinese Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs headed by Mr Zhang, is joining Mr Zhang in the Shenzhen meetings.
Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (CGCC) chairman Jonathan Choi sidestepped the question of whether his organisation had met Mr Zhang or Ms Sun to talk about the leadership race.
But he said it was "very clear" that Mrs Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's former No. 2 official, was Beijing's pick to be Hong Kong's next leader.
Her main competitor is seen to be Mr John Tsang, the former financial secretary.
"Both Tsang and Lam are suitable candidates. But a choice has to be made," said Mr Choi.
Federation of Hong Kong Industries deputy chairman Jimmy Kwok would not confirm whether the federation had met Mr Zhang when contacted by SCMP, although he added: "It would not be surprising that the central government would like to listen to the views of the business chambers and other groups on different issues.
"In fact, it would be surprising if the central government did not want to know their views."