Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – However much power the central government decides to assign to Hong Kong, this is what the Hong Kong gets. Wu Bangguo, The head of the National People's Congress, China’s Parliament, has recalled the limits – according to Beijing – of the city’s autonomy.
Article 20 of the Basic Law, which provides a legal basis for dealing with subsequent assignment of power by Beijing and also comprises the possibility of free and democratic elections, has often been cited by Hong Kong as a justification for the assignment of increased autonomy. Wu told a forum to mark the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Basic Law – in the presence of Hong Kong Executive Chief Donald Tsang Yam-kuen - that “there was no question of the city being entitled to "residual power"”. China – he continued – has one single government and the “high degree of autonomy” enjoyed by Hong Kong is not a specific attribute of the SAR [special administrative region] but comes directly from Beijing. Wu insisted the chief executive must play a "dominant role" in the establishment and operation of the SAR government. He said it would not be appropriate to copy the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary or the parliamentary system from abroad.
Experts maintain that Wu, without making any explicit references, wanted to warn the city not seek political solutions which undermine the “absolute power” of Beijing, also because this summer Hong Kong’s political reform is due to be voted on and Basic Law provides for the setting up of universal suffrage by 2008.
Political scientist Ma Ngok of Chinese University in Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that “The message is clear. All powers come from Beijing and it has the ultimate say on `yes' or `no' on everything”.
For over ten years, since the ex British colony was returned to Chinese rule, Hong Kong has sought greater independence and the adoption of democratic elections. The judiciary has remained independent of political power.
Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, responds that said while the principle of separation of powers was not spelled out in the Basic Law, he believed it was part of the "one country, two systems" and "high degree of autonomy" package. Ma agrees pointing out that generally states in a federal system, through a written constitution, would hand over specific powers to the federal government.
But Beijing is against this interpretation of the law. Already in 2004 Qiao Xiaoyang, undersecretary to the general committee of the National People’s Assembly, said that China had a central government that holds all power and that the local authorities only had powers delegated to them from Beijing.