21 September 2019
The Hong Kong Bar Association is urging Zhang Xiaoming (left) to clear doubts about his speech. Photo: i-Cable
The Hong Kong Bar Association is urging Zhang Xiaoming (left) to clear doubts about his speech. Photo: i-Cable

Zhang faces call to explain ‘superior’ status of HK leader

China’s top official in Hong Kong is facing calls to clarify a statement that the chief executive has “superior power” over all branches of government.

The Hong Kong Bar Association said Beijing Liaison Office director Zhang Xiaoming should clear the air to avoid doubts and misconceptions.

On Saturday, Zhang told an official reception that the Hong Kong chief executive has “special power” that overrides those of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

In a statement Monday, the association said it regrets the remark and called for an explanation from Zhang and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen.

The barristers warned that Zhang’s description of the chief executive as having “a special legal status that transcends the institutions of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary” could provoke unnecessary public anxiety.

They said the chief executive, like any public officer, must perform his functions and exercise his powers lawfully and cannot be above the law.

On Monday, Zhang refused to answer questions from the media regarding his controversial comment.

Meanwhile, Yuen said Zhang’s statement should not be taken out of context.

He said it did not mean the chief executive’s powers should go unchecked but that his actions are monitored by the legislature and the judiciary.

Like all citizens, the chief executive must abide by the law, Yuen said.

National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan said the chief executive represents the whole of Hong Kong and his “constitutional position is higher” than the three government branches.

She said Zhang’s use of “special” and “superior” might have been misinterpreted due to cultural differences between Hong Kong and the mainland.

She criticized the pan-democratic camp for jumping to conclusions, using the Chinese idiom “mistaking the shadow of a bow in one’s cup for a snake”.

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Does Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have superior status over all branches of government? Photos: HK government, RTHK