Suitors not smitten at the end of the day

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 April, 2004, 12:00am

It was supposed to be a political exchange but the two sides talked more of love and marriage.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association of Democracy and People's Livelihood, likened his request to meet Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee, to a marriage proposal to someone playing hard to get.

But a good-natured Mr Qiao said he was not so easily wooed as there were many potential suitors.

'[Mr Fung] said ... his wish to meet me was similar to the spirit of proposing to his wife five times. I was very touched,' he said.

Continuing his charm offensive, a relaxed Mr Qiao joked his way through yesterday's two-hour forum, an apparent olive branch to the pro-democracy camp.

Beijing has snubbed the camp since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Mr Fung and Democrats Yeung Sum and Martin Lee Chu-ming had sent Mr Qiao letters opposing the Basic Law interpretation and requesting a meeting.

While Hong Kong officials would not admit acting as matchmaker, it is understood that questions filed by democrats during the forum were especially passed on to Mr Qiao.

Of the 12 question asked, half were from the democrats.

But Szeto Wah, the Democratic Party stalwart in championing vindication of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, was not optimistic for a happy ending any time soon.

'I cannot see any silver lining in our relationship. There is still a long way towards dawn,' he said.

The Frontier's Cyd Ho Sau-lan, one of those who sent Mr Qiao a letter, said: 'The door has been opened, but there was still glass in between. These were gestures without substance.'

Mr Fung was also not happy, saying the softening of attitude towards the democrats was merely public relations.