C.Y. Leung in silent tribute to Tiananmen dissident
Emily Tsang and Peter So
Incoming chief executive Leung Chun-ying yesterday observed a minute's silence to mourn Tiananmen dissident Li Wangyang, whose suspicious death in a Hunan hospital earlier this month sparked a public outcry.
The move, at a forum organised by a pro-democracy group, came in stark contrast to Leung's earlier decision not to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. He had also refused initially to comment on Li's death, which was originally called a suicide but is now being investigated by provincial authorities.
Another pan-democratic lawmaker, Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said he would ask the incoming chief executive to pay respects to the June 4 victims in future.
After his initial reticence to comment on Li's death, Leung had said he shared the same feelings as Hongkongers and promised to reflect the public's views to the mainland authorities.
However, at the policy forum organised by the Neigbourhood and Workers' Service Centre (NWSC) in Kwai Fong yesterday, he went a significant step further.
Organisers began the event by asking Leung to serve a minute's silence for Li, who spent 21 years in prison, where torture and ill-treatment left him blind and deaf. The dissident was found hanging in suspicious circumstances in his hospital room in Shaoyang , Hunan, on June 6.
Leung then rose along with other audience members and bowed his head. He made no comment about Li's case during the meeting.
Lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, of the NWSC, said he had notified the incoming chief executive about the mourning ceremony minutes before he went onto the stage to call for the minute's silence: 'I told him [Leung Chun-ying] there will be a minute's silence to pay respect to Li, and he can choose whether to join us.'
Leung Yiu-chung said the incoming chief executive then acknowledged the arrangement.
During the chief executive election, Leung declined to observe a minute's silence for the victims of the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown.
One political analyst said Leung's gesture at this politically sensitive time was smart, and would assuage public discontent prior to the expcted visit to the city of President Hu Jintao for celebrations to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover.
James Sung Lap-kung, lecturer in public and social administration at City University, said: 'It was a smart decision in the run-up to the handover anniversary ceremony when President Hu Jintao is likely to visit Hong Kong. It is wise to take a bold step to cool down the temperature a bit for Hu's visit.'
Sung said Leung's gesture was unlikely to offend the central government. He noted it came after the Hunan provincial authorities announced an investigation of the case and after Li Gang - a deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong - and several of the city's deputies to the National People's Congress had expressed their concerns over Li's case.
Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said Leung should be free to choose how to respond to people's demands.