HONG KONG— A Hong Kong tycoon was expelled from China’s top government advisory body on Wednesday after he voiced doubts about the city’s Beijing-backed leader, who is struggling to end month-long democracy protests.
James Tien said he accepted the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference decision to expel him for telling a local radio station less than a week ago that Hong Kong’s unpopular leader, Leung Chun-ying, should consider resigning because he’s done a poor job of running the city.
Tien told reporters he would also resign from his position as leader of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Liberal Party.
His criticism of Leung was unusual for a member of the city’s wealthy tycoon class, who generally fall in line with Beijing when it comes to policies on the semiautonomous southern Chinese city.
Tien’s expulsion from the advisory body is a sign that Leung still has Beijing’s full support even as his approval rating in Hong Kong plumbs new lows. Leung hasn’t been able to deal effectively with student-led protesters who have been occupying thoroughfares in three areas of Hong Kong for more than a month to demand democratic reforms.
CPPCC members voted to expel Tien not because he criticized Leung but because he aired those sentiments in public, contradicting a resolution passed by the body in March expressing support for the city’s leader, according to a Hong Kong delegate.
“If you voice opposition, it shouldn’t be made public because making it public is tantamount to not supporting” Hong Kong’s leader, Chan Wing-kee, a member of the body’s Standing Committee, told reporters in Beijing ahead of the meeting.
The advisory body doesn’t have any formal power in China’s authoritarian political system. Membership is a sign of Beijing’s favor and an opportunity for high-level networking.
Tien, a veteran Hong Kong lawmaker, said that he had forgotten about his position as a member of the Chinese advisory body when he publicly criticized Leung.
“This is something I did incorrectly,” he said, before repeating his view that Hong Kong has experienced big governance problems recently and a successor to Leung would have more success negotiating with pro-democracy lawmakers and protesters on the street.
It’s not the first time Tien has gone against Beijing’s wishes. In 2003 he withheld support for anti-subversion legislation proposed by the Hong Kong’s government that was eventually shelved. The law was aimed at limiting political activity unfavorable to China.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest movement has called for Leung to resign but he has repeatedly rejected their demands.
Beijing has promised that residents of the semiautonomous southern Chinese financial center can directly elect their leader starting in 2017 but that a committee would be needed to screen candidates, angering many who call it fake democracy.