Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has rebutted criticism against Beijing’s liaison director Zhang Xiaoming following Zhang’s controversial comment that the SAR’s top official is above legislative, executive and judicial powers.

Zhang has been “quoted out of context,” the CE said ahead of a government meeting on Tuesday morning.

At around the same time, about a dozen protesters marched to Beijing’s liaison office calling for Zhang to retract his comments.

Activists organised by the Neo Democrats protested against Zhang's comments on Tuesday. Photo: Neo Democrats
Activists organised by the Neo Democrats protested against Zhang’s comments on Tuesday. Photo: Neo Democrats

In remarks that he admitted would be controversial, Beijing’s top liaison official said Hong Kong’s chief executive has a “special legal position which overrides administrative, legislative and judicial organs,” and that the separation of powers “is not suitable for Hong Kong.”

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

Zhang made the remarks on Saturday at an event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law. He has since come under fire from pan-democrats as well as teachers and students.

At around 11am on Tuesday, activists organised by the Neo Democrats marched from the Western Police Station to the liaison office, holding up banners and chanting slogans. They accused Zhang of “seriously violating Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and trampling on Hong Kong’s separation of powers.”

zhang xiaoming separation of powers comment
A poster made by Neo Democrats condemning Zhang’s comments. Photo: Neo Democrats

However, the CE said Zhang’s critics have not been fair. “I noticed after Director Zhang Xiaoming made the speech on Saturday, before his speech was published, some people, who were not present at the event to hear his speech, had already made some very harsh criticism,” the CE told reporters outside the Executive Council.

Some critics, he added, were quoting Zhang out of context and some even “misled” others. He called these critics “irresponsible.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying speaks to reporters ahead of an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. Photo: Now TV screencap.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying speaks to reporters ahead of an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday. Photo: Now TV screencap.

The Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement on Monday expressing “deep concerns” over Zhang’s comments. In the statement, the HKBA said Hong Kong courts already apply “the principles and doctrines in common law, including the separation of powers.”

“The HKBA firmly believes that the common law principle of ‘separation of powers’ will continue to be implemented within the constitutional framework of the Basic Law,” the statement said.

Common law is a legal system which places emphasis on laws declared by judges based on the judgments of individual cases. The legal framework of Hong Kong is based on the common law system, whereas China uses the civil law system, in which the source of law comes mainly from statutes passed by the legislature.

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.