China turns up heat over Hong Kong's top job

China's darkest suspicions over London's attempts to sabotage the post- colonial government in Hong Kong have roared to the surface again, with accusations that Britain is "meddling" in the process of selecting the territory's new head of government, to be known as chief executive.

China launched a two-pronged offensive yesterday as one of the colony's Peking-controlled newspapers accused Hugh Davies - head of the British team discussing transitional arrangements - of lobbying to secure the post for Anson Chan, Governor Chris Patten's deputy and chief secretary.

According to the Wen Wei Po newspaper, Britain is guilty of "still ignoring the coming of the year 1997 and still dreaming of extending the era of appointing their candidates as Hong Kong governor beyond 1997".

This was followed by a blast from Zhang Junsheng, senior spokesman for the Xinhua news agency, China's de facto embassy in Hong Kong. He said "the British side should not meddle in, and has no rights to poke its nose" into the selection of the chief executive, as this was "entirely a matter for China".

The Foreign Office spokes-man in Hong Kong described the accusation of meddling as "absurd", and pointed out that the selection process was "a matter for the people of Hong Kong".

What all this means is that China is making it crystal clear that Mrs Chan has no chance of being given the top job after Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule next year.

This is despite the fact that every single public opinion has ranked her as by far the most popular candidate for the post.

Although Britain denies meddling in the selection, it is well known that British officials, from the Governor down, are keen for Mrs Chan to secure the job.

But they have been careful to keep their support quiet, precisely because they know that any hint of British endorsement would be the kiss of death for her chances.

China has yet to formally indicate its choice of candidate for the post of chief executive, but all the signs are that Peking supports the shipping magnate Tung Che-hwa, though he refuses to confirm whether he is in the running.

Mr Tung's shipping company was saved from bankruptcy by Chinese funds after a long history of alliance with China's bitter rivals in Taiwan.

He recently resigned from the Governor's Executive Council, or cabinet, in a move seen as clearing the way for his candidature.

Also in the race is the controversial and widely disliked Lo Tak-shing, the only candidate who has had the courage to declare his candidacy.

Mr Lo is seen as the man backed by Chinese hardliners who want to impose strict control over Hong Kong.

His position appeared to be advanced when he was given space in the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, the People's Daily early this month. In a long article he outlined a chilling manifesto for the new order, in which he accused Britain of trying to destabilise Hong Kong ahead of the transfer of sovereignty.

He made it clear that democratic reforms would have to be rolled back, welfare spending cut and the education system changed to foster "patriotism and a love for one's race".

Mr Lo suggested political opponents would have no place in the new order.

"No Government can run smoothly amid meaningless political wrangles," he wrote, calling instead for "resolute and highly efficient" government.

The chief executive will be appointed by November. China is now in the process of forming a 400-strong committee to make the choice. It appears only four names will be allowed to go forward for consideration.

China points out that this method of selection introduces a higher degree of consultation into the process of choosing a head of government than was ever seen during a century-and-a-half of British rule, when governors were appointed in London.

However, there are strong doubts that the selection committee will do anything more than endorse a decision made in Peking.

For this reason Hong Kong's largest party, the Democratic Party, has refused to take part in the process, even though China has held out an olive branch to the party by inviting it to become involved.

A former Xinhua official has said the real choice of Hong Kong's first chief executive will be made by the Communist Party's most senior leaders, including President Jiang Zemin.

He is known to have taken an active interest in the matter and sent a strong signal of his preference by seeking Mr Tung out at a gathering of Chinese advisers in Peking and shaking his hand in front of the television cameras.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home