BEIJING (AP) — China's top political advisory body voted Monday to appoint Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to the ceremonial post of vice chairman, ahead of his departure from office in July.
Leung announced in December that he wouldn't seek a second term as leader of the Chinese-controlled territory, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
His five-year term has been marked by increasingly bitter political divisions between pro-democracy activists and Beijing loyalists. Leung has said Hong Kong is an "inalienable" part of China and independence is not possible.
Members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference voted to appoint him on the final day of their annual 10-day meeting. The body advises China's rubberstamp legislature and is made up of politicians and representatives from business, the arts, civil society, sports and academia.
China regularly rewards retired or retiring officials for their loyalty with largely ceremonial posts that require them to attend meetings but do little else. Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's first chief executive after its return to China, is also a conference vice chairman.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said there were questions over whether Leung's dual roles in Hong Kong and Beijing contravene the "one country, two systems" law, under which Hong Kong retains a separate economic, legal and political system from the communist-governed Chinese mainland until 2047.
Premier Li Keqiang said at the opening of this year's meeting of the legislature that the Chinese government would "continue to implement, both to the letter and in spirit, the principle of 'one country, two systems.'"
Li also for the first time publicly denounced dismissed the territory's independence as an option, saying: "The notion of Hong Kong independence will lead nowhere."