Carrie Lam (center) won the Chief Executive election in March 2017. The other two candidates included John Tsang (left) and Woo Kwok-hing (right). Photo: Electoral Affairs Commission

The Chinese government can select the Chief Executive of Hong Kong through “consultations” – instead of an election – for national security reasons, a pro-Beijing researcher has claimed.

Although the pro-democracy camp won a majority of seats in the District Council last month and could get another 117 seats in the 1,200-strong Election Committee that would elect the Chief Executive, it did not control half the seats of the committee, said Lau Siu-kai, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

In this case, the pro-establishment camp would become more united and only assign one candidate to run in the election, Lau said in an interview with the pro-establishment website

“The central government will not appoint a person whom it does not trust to become Hong Kong’s top leader,” he said. “Don’t forget that according to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive can be selected through consultations, not necessarily by an election.”

Lau added that selecting a Chief Executive through consultations would probably lead to strong opposition locally, or even sanctions by other countries, but it would be an efficient way to ensure national security.

On November 24, about three million voters elected the 452 new District Councillors. The pro-democracy camp won 385 seats, or 85% of all the seats, and 17 chairman positions in 18 District Councils. It also won the right to control the 117 seats in the Election Committee that will elect the Chief Executive in 2022.

In 2017, the pro-democracy camp, which controlled 325 seats in the Election Committee, nominated two candidates – former Financial Secretary John Tsang and retired judge Woo Kok-hing – to run in the election, challenging the Beijing-backed Carrie Lam, who finally won with 777 votes.

Tsang had 365 votes, while Woo had 21. According to some analysis, Lam won the election as Beijing successfully persuaded about 200 more people, who were not among her 580 nominators, to vote for her.

Last week, some netizens launched a campaign to encourage people to set up labor unions for registering as voters to select 60 seats representing the labor sector in the Election Committee in late 2021 and three seats representing the Legislative Council’s labor functional constituency in 2020.

They said every seven people could establish a labor union. They added that at least 300 new labor unions had to be set up for the pro-democracy camp to achieve its goals.

At least 30 new labor unions have been set up in the past few months, said Mung Siu-tat, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.

These new organizations were not only created for registering as voters of the Election Committee or the Legislative Council’s labor functional constituency in 2020, but also for handling real labor issues, Mung said.

Ma Ngok, an associate professor of the Government and Public Administration Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, warned that it would take a large amount of resources for the pro-democracy camp to win the seats of the functional constituency in Legco. Ma said new labor unions would be better spending their time on labor issues.

The Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) decided to “perfect” the system for appointing and replacing the leaders of Hong Kong and Macau and other senior officials in the two cities, Shen Chunyao, head of the Basic Law Committee of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said in a Beijing media briefing on November 1.

While most Hong Kong people could not understand why Beijing raised the matter, former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondent Club on November 29 that the central government had the right to select the Chief Executive, instead of by holding an election. Leung said such a move fulfilled the requirements of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was signed in 1984.

The idea was further elaborated by Lau Siu-kai on December 6. A commentary published in the Sing Tao Daily on the same day also pointed out that Beijing could play this “wild card” if necessary.

According to Article 45 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive “shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally” and be appointed by the central government.

Read: Hong Kong pressed to launch national security law

Read: Lam blamed, by losers as well as winners

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