The Chinese government has not decided whether to back incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for re-election next year, three moderate politicians have said after meeting with Feng Wei, deputy director of the Chinese State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office.

The high-ranking Chinese official last week met with two centrist politicians – Ronny Tong Ka-wah of the Path of Democracy and Tik Chi-yuen of Third Side – in Shenzhen, and former Democratic Party lawmaker Fred Li Wah-ming in Hong Kong separately.

Feng Wei
Feng Wei. File

The three politicians have said on separate occasions that Beijing did not appear to have chosen the next chief executive yet. Tong told Apple Daily on Sunday: “My feeling is that the Central Government has not made up its mind, whether to back Leung’s re-election or to endorse another challenger.”

Tong said in an RTHK programme on Monday that he had advised Feng against re-electing Leung because his “every word and every act” has only fueled social division in Hong Kong.

The former lawmaker said that Beijing cannot openly support any candidate other than Leung at this stage, since Leung will still be in office during the next nine months. Otherwise, Tong said, “it would disrupt the order of the pro-establishment camp.”

Ronny Tong Ka-wah
Ronny Tong Ka-wah. File Photo: Stand News.

Tik, the Third Side leader, said that Feng only asked for his opinion and did not make any comment on the topic of chief executive candidates.

Li of the Democratic Party declined to comment on what Feng said on the topic of next year’s election, but confirmed that Beijing has not yet decided on which candidate to endorse.

File Photo: Tik Chi-yuen.
File Photo: Tik Chi-yuen.

Rise of the pro-independence movement

Tong also said he had tried to advise Feng and other Chinese officials not to overreact towards the conduct of the “self-determination” or “pro-independence” camp, such as Demosistō and Civic Passion. He said he had heard rumors that the National People’s Congress may hand down another decision on the interpretation of the Basic Law – Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – in response to the rise of the pro-independence movement.

Tong, former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said he hoped Beijing would understand that Hong Kong’s judicial system is mature enough to deal with “the problem of Hong Kong independence,” and that there is no need for the Chinese government to interfere.

Li told HK01 that during his hour-long meeting with Feng, he had strongly advised Beijing to back another candidate to be Hong Kong’s next leader because Leung’s leadership will likely fuel the growth of the pro-independence movement.

fred li ming wah
Fred Li Ming-wah. File

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairperson of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said that Feng’s meeting with centrist politicians shows that the Chinese government intends to expand its network of sources – an important means for Beijing to get firsthand information on the situation in Hong Kong.

Lau described Feng’s meetings as “normal,” but did not comment as to whether Beijing would maintain communications with pan-democrats on a regular basis.

The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office is responsible for promoting political, economic and cultural ties between Beijing and the two special administrative regions. The office is answerable to the State Council, China’s chief administrative authority.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.