China’s most powerful lawmaker says he is here to “look, listen and talk” after arriving for a three-day visit.
Zhang Dejiang, who is also the top Beijing official responsible for Hong Kong, told an airport reception Tuesday that his tour includes observing citizens’ everyday life and studying work reports by the Hong Kong government, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Zhang was met at the airport by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and top administration officials.
“I will listen to suggestions and demands from various sectors of Hong Kong society,” he said.
These include concerns over “one country, two systems”, governance and the Basic Law.
Also, he reaffirmed the central government’s approval of the work of the Hong Kong government, echoing President Xi Jinping who praised Leung in a 2015 meeting.
Zhang said he worked hand in hand with the Hong Kong administration during SARS in 2003 when he was party secretary of Guangdong province.
The outbreak, which began in Guangdong province, killed 299 people in Hong Kong and crippled its economy.
Zhang privately met with Leung for 15 minutes Tuesday before attending a briefing in the Central Government Offices.
He “spoke highly” of the government’s performance and expressed confidence in Hong Kong’s future, according to sources.
Zhang is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Belt and Road Summit in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center on Wednesday and visit Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin.
He will give brief remarks at a cocktail reception where he will meet 10 lawmakers including four leading pan-democrats.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong, who is attending the cocktails, played down Zhang’s praises for the government, saying these were not necessarily meant as an endorsement of Leung for another term.
He is hoping Zhang will talk to ordinary citizens and encourage capable politicians such as Chief Secretary Carrie Lam and Financial Secretary John Tsang to run for chief executive in 2017.
Leung is widely expected to seek a second five-year term.
Political commentator Johnny Lau said Beijing has lost trust in Leung and Zhang is not likely to signal Beijing’s thinking about his presumptive candidacy one way or the other.
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