Beijing’s top liaison official Zhang Xiaoming has said Hong Kong’s chief executive has an “overriding power” above all administrative, legislative and judicial organs in the government, and that the separation of the three powers “is not suitable” for Hong Kong.

“The political system in the HKSAR is an administrative-oriented system under the direct jurisdiction of the central government and centred around the chief executive, with checks and balances as well as cooperation between the administration, and an independent legislature,” Zhang told attendees at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law on Saturday.

The CE “has the status of a double chief and is accountable to two sides,” Zhang said. “This gives the CE a special legal position which overrides administrative, legislative and judicial organs.”

Director of the Central Government's Liaison Office, Zhang Xiaoming
Director of the Central Government’s Liaison Office, Zhang Xiaoming. Photo: NowTV screengrab.

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, ensures its judicial independence – Zhang added – but the Special Administrative Region’s leader has special legal power above the judiciary as well as the executive and legislative branches of government. As Hong Kong is not a sovereign state, it will not implement the Western system of “separation of three powers,” he said.

“Hong Kong is not using the British or American system… One and a half centuries have passed, if now we copy [the Western system], if we implement separation of three systems and the parliamentary system of the US and UK, and use this to judge whether [society] is democratic, I’m afraid it’s not suitable.”

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Photo: NowTV screengrab.

Speaking in the same event, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said that Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy needs to be kept within the Basic Law framework, and that the principle of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” also needs to be restricted by the Basic Law.

At the end of his speech, Zhang said that he knew his remarks will cause controversy, but felt that he ought declare his stance clearly.

The Liaison Office is China’s de facto representation in the Hong Kong SAR. It is responsible for interactions between the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the People’s Liberation Army, as well as political and propaganda efforts in the city.

Additional reporting: Tom Grundy.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.