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Exco convener downplays appointees' nationalities

Bonnie Chen

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Executive Council convener Leung Chun- ying stood by the Basic Law yesterday in dismissing opposition demands that undersecretaries should be told to give up their foreign passports because Hong Kong's mini-constitution does not specify the requirement.

The issue arose over the discovery that former Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong vice chairman Gregory So Kam-leung, who will be undersecretary for Commerce and Economic Development, has a Canadian passport.

Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on and Undersecretary for Food and Health Gabriel Matthew Leung were also said to hold foreign passports.

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"The Hong Kong situation is unique - as long as you live in Hong Kong for seven years, you can be a voter as well as undersecretary," Leung said.

He said it would be improper to add further requirements outside what the Basic Law has specified.

"The Basic Law does not differentiate political and non-political appointments. It only requires the chief judge to be a Chinese and less than one-fifth of the Legislative Council members have foreign nationality," Leung said.

"If we add any political requirement to the Basic Law, we can never end the debate," Leung said, adding, "We should act according to the law."

His view echoed that of Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang Ying-yen who said the nationality requirement should not be tightened.

Tang said that due to historical reasons, there was no strict nationality requirement when drafting the Basic Law and thus no additional requirement should be added for undersecretaries.

DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the party does not require members to have only Chinese nationality.

The party has around 400 members with foreign nationality.

He said the Basic Law does not have such a requirement for undersecretaries and whether they should give up their foreign nationalities should be left for public debate.

No undersecretary has responded to the nationality issue. But government officials have been on the defensive since last Thursday.

DAB's So - who will take up the new post on Monday - is considering giving up his Canadian passport, according to a source.


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