The pro-establishment candidate hoping to secure the Hong Kong Island seat in this Sunday’s by-election said on Wednesday that the city could consider reviewing term limits for its leader.
Judy Chan Ka-pui, at a televised debate with three other contenders, voiced support for a plan announced by China’s ruling Communist Party last week to remove constitutional restrictions on term limits for the country’s president, which would pave the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in office beyond 2023.
She added that Hong Kong could consider doing the same.
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“The situation in China is very different from the West … If our country’s president has more power … this would be a good development,” Chan, of the New People’s Party, said. Such a change could lend continuity to government policies, she added.
“For example, in the United States, from Obama to Trump, everything was thrown out,” said the Southern district councillor. She said it was common for countries to amend their constitutions.
Asked by candidate Edward Yum Liang-hsien if Hong Kong should also remove the current two-term limit on its chief executive, Chan said the matter could be discussed. The two terms allow for a maximum of 10 years in office.
“It depends on Hong Kong’s situation,” Chan said.
Pro-democracy camp candidate Au Nok-hin, who is expected to be in a close fight with Chan at the polls on Sunday for the seat in Hong Kong’s legislature, asked her when the term limits for China’s president had been written into the constitution.
Chan failed to answer that question, and fellow Southern district councillor Au then slammed her for being unfamiliar with the country’s history.
Chan previously made headlines for saying that denying Hong Kong was part of China was akin to “rejecting your own mother”.
Late Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping introduced the two-term limit for the president in 1982 to prevent another lifelong dictatorship after Mao Zedong’s tumultuous rule.
The fourth candidate running for the Hong Kong Island seat is Ng Dick-hay, an information technology officer. Like Yum, he is not affiliated with any political party.
Bernard Chan, the top adviser to current Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as convenor of the Executive Council, on Wednesday said there was no need to fiddle with term limits when none of the city’s leaders since the 1997 handover from Britain had completed two terms in office.
“Why extend it? None of the chief executives have finished two terms – how difficult that is!” he said. “There are two different systems for the mainland and Hong Kong, and the requirements are completely different. If Carrie Lam could complete two terms, it would already be a breakthrough.”
The term limits are stipulated in Article 46 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. Chan believed it would be “difficult and too complicated to amend” the law.
“A constitutional amendment would definitely be approved in Beijing … but amending the Basic Law would trigger fierce debate in Hong Kong,” he said.
Under Article 159 of the Basic Law, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the State Council and the Hong Kong government all have the power to propose amending the mini-constitution.
The final say on amending it, however, lies with the first of those three bodies.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung