Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying has said that Hongkongers should be grateful for their rights and privileges accorded by Beijing. In the same speech, he labelled democrats who have called for US sanctions “separatists.”

“In Hong Kong, by pushing the envelope of democracy too far and by attempting to chip away at the authority of Beijing… many of the so-called democrats have become, in practice, separatists,” he claimed in a video posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday.

Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. File photo: GovHK.

In the video entitled “How does Hong Kong as a local democracy fit into the Chinese national context?,” Leung criticised the demands for genuine universal suffrage and civic nomination: “Mainland taxi drivers think Hong Kong has been ungrateful. We are biting the hand that feeds us… the so-called democrats who collude with foreign government should be locked up forever.”

“I often wonder if the people on mainland had a crystal ball when they were consulted with the Basic Law draft and saw the so-called democrats calling on the US to sanction China, would they have agreed to give Hong Kong this special treatment that we have today under the Basic Law?” he asked.

Tuesday’s video is the second to be released by the former leader on his Facebook page within a week.

Last Friday, Leung posted a video of himself talking about Hong Kong’s political system and “the meaning of democracy” in the region.

He said the city never had democratically elected leaders, nor an elected governor or legislature under British rule. “The political status of Hong Kong is one of a city, albeit one with a high degree of autonomy,” he said.

Leung added that the high degree of autonomy did not come from the people but Beijing, saying that Hong Kong was not an independent state like Singapore. Any rights or status granted to the region was derived from Beijing’s authority, he said. “In Hong Kong, the extra autonomous power we enjoy actually comes from Beijing.”

democracy hong kong
File photo: via CC2.0..

He compared the chief executive position with the mayor of London, saying that Beijing would allow for local elections if the leader’s powers were limited to those enjoyed by a UK mayor: “Beijing could happily agree tomorrow, provided that the Hong Kong chief executive has the same limited powers as the London mayor.”

‘Democracy isn’t separatism’

Leung, who served as the city’s leader from 2012 to 2017, also repeated his comments that proposed reforms to replace elections for the chief executive with public consultations are in accordance with the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint British Declaration.

However, former democrat lawmaker Fernando Cheung told HKFP that Leung’s suggestion went against the mini-constitution’s provisions for the achievement of universal suffrage in a “gradual and orderly manner.”

basic law
Basic Law. File photo: GovHK.

“Mr. Leung tried to evade Article 45 of the Basic Law, which clearly states, ‘The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures,'” Cheung said.

“The Article has laid down ‘the principle of gradual and orderly progress’… the current selection of the chief executive is by an Election Committee through election instead of consultations. To go back from an election to a consultation process would contravene the principle of gradual and orderly progress” he added.

Central Government Offices
Photo: GovHK.

“As for his comments about democrats [becoming] separatists by pushing the envelope of democracy too far, I can tell him that democracy is not separatism,” Cheung added.

The former chief executive’s statements come amid increasing pressure from pro-Beijing voices calling for electoral reforms to ensure the city is governed by “patriots.”

Calls to restrict Hong Kong’s already limited democracy come as authorities move to quell all political dissent under the Beijing-imposed security law passed last summer.

Election bid?

When asked if he had ruled out the possibility of running as chief executive again next year, Leung later said on Wednesday that he would do “anything to serve Hong Kong well and to serve the country.”

“I am among millions of Hong Kong people who are eligible,” he said during a video interview at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Thursday according to Reuters.

Hong Kong’s chief executive is currently nominated by a limited election committee and appointed by Beijing. 1,200 representatives of different industries voted in the 2017 Chief Executive elections. The next election is scheduled for March 2022.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.