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Response to student Ho Kwan-lok

In an article in yesterday's Ming Pao newspaper, Mr Ho Kwan-lok, a student at the Education University of Hong Kong, said that the assertion in recent years that "the Central Authorities have substantive power in appointing the Chief Executive" was "moving the goalposts" and contrary to the understanding in earlier years of "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy.

The fact is that both the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law stipulate that the Chief Executive shall be "appointed by the Central People's Government (CPG)".  Apart from the appointment of the Chief Executive, these two documents further provide that principal officials shall be nominated by the Chief Executive and appointed by the CPG. As the Chief Executive can only nominate principal officials, it is clear that the Central Authorities' power in appointing principal officials is substantive rather than nominal. The CPG's power in appointing principal officials and its power in appointing the Chief Executive are but the same concept.

The reasons why the Chief Executive, selected by election or through consultations, has to be appointed substantively by the CPG are clear. As Hong Kong exercises a higher degree of autonomy compared to other cities in the country and overseas, the Chief Executive, who is vested with significant power, must be highly trusted by the CPG.

Had Hong Kong not exercised a high degree of autonomy or had it just been given the same degree of autonomy as other foreign cities, I believe that there would not have been such a provision requiring the Chief Executive to be appointed by the CPG.  "Substantive power of appointment" and "a high degree of autonomy" are two sides of the same coin.

April 6, 2017