Leung is forced to flee meeting
Stuart Lau, Lo Wei and Ada Lee
New Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was forced to abandon a town hall meeting and make a hasty exit under heavy police escort after activists stormed his meet-the-public session in Tuen Mun last night.
Leung was bundled into a car and driven away after being trapped for almost an hour at the On Ting Yau Oi Community Centre in Tuen Mun, after it was mobbed by dozens of activists.
The Tuen Mun meeting was part of a six-district tour yesterday that saw the new chief, on his second day in office, lead some of his cabinet members to meet locals and discuss district issues with them face to face.
The other five district meetings were held in Shau Kei Wan, Tseung Kwan O, Kwai Chung, Kwun Tong, and Tai Kok Tsui.
The unprecedented sessions, seen by some as a gesture to fulfil his election pledge of reaching out to the public, were largely uneventful until the Tuen Mun meeting, which Leung attended with education secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim.
Yesterday's town hall meetings follow Sunday's July 1 rally that this year attracted its biggest attendance in years. Many marchers directed their anger directly at the new Leung administration. They expressed worries over perceived infringements of human rights and Beijing's influence in the rule of Leung, who won the chief executive election in March with Beijing's blessing.
The session in Tuen Mun was supposed to last 75 minutes, but turned ugly just as it was about to end. Without warning, a woman appeared behind Leung, raising a placard that read, 'Acting'. Some 10 activists stood up, shouting that Leung was 'staging political shows'.
Leung, dressed casually in an orange long-sleeve polo shirt, remained composed and at times smiled back. But as some protesters became noisier, police quickly ushered Leung away through a back door. The meeting's moderator Lau Wong-fat, chairman of Tuen Mun District Council and the Heung Yee Kuk, cut short the meeting.
A source familiar with the arrangements said some local district officers had already warned against such high-profile visits by Leung, describing them as 'high-risk'. 'Such meetings with residents used to be hosted by district officers, not pro-government figures. It is in effect inviting pan-democrats to go to protest,' said the source.
Eastern District Council chairman Christopher Chung Shu-kun, a member of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, served as moderator at Leung's meeting in Shau Kei Wan.
A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office said Leung respected people's right to protest and express their views. 'But it is hoped that they can express their views in a peaceful and rational manner,' said the spokesman, adding that Leung intended to attend more town hall meetings in the coming weekends.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, also showed up at another town hall meeting yesterday in Tai Kok Tsui.
During their visit to Tseung Kwan O, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Ng heard strong calls to close landfills in the district. Some residents were unhappy that Ng, instead of environment minister Wong Kam-sing, was sent to see them. One said: 'Our major concern is the landfill problem and you send us the education minister. Why?'