Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Photo: AFP

Hong Kong’s “highly autonomous” status under the one country, two systems agreement governing the former colony’s handover by Britain to China in 1997 only exists because of Beijing’s consent and must not be used to counter the central government’s power under any circumstance, said Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress.

Hong Kong draws the authority for its political power from the central government and the territory cannot split that power from the country, Zhang said in a 50-minute, 8,000 word speech on Saturday during a ceremony in Beijing to mark the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law in Hong Kong.

The special administrative region’s political structure is also not based on the concept of the separation of powers but is an executive-led system with the Chief Executive as its core, he said. Hong Kong has a constitutional responsibility to safeguard China’s national security, he said.

The governing body in Hong Kong must be formed by patriots who respect the Chinese nation, truly support the resumption of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong and do not threaten the special administrative region’s prosperity and stability, Zhang said.

The central government has the power to approve legislation filed by Hong Kong lawmakers, appoint key officials, interpret and amend the Basic Law, make decisions on political development, issue commands to the government and receive reports about the Chief Executive’s work, Zhang said, adding that detailed rules about these powers should be promulgated.

The central government also has the power to supervise whether public officers in Hong Kong support the Basic Law and pledge loyalty to the nation and the special administrative region, he said.

Zhang’s speech was aimed at calling on Hong Kong civil servants to support the Chief Executive and the central government’s policies, Johnny Lau Yui-siu was quoted as saying in a RTHK report. Such a move may undermine the civil servants’ political neutrality, Lau said.