Democrats scramble to present a suitably sombre minute's silence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 12:00am

The democrats may have stood together in their tribute to Zhao Ziyang yesterday, but not before last-minute scrambling by some to present a united, sombre front.

As Democrat Fred Li Wah-ming, dressed like most of his colleagues in sober black, was explaining their plan to defy president Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai's ban, a woman turned heads by flitting in wearing a lilac suit. It was Mandy Tam Heung-man, who was later seen to borrow an overcoat from Democrat Albert Ho Chun-yan to cover her bright attire.

Fellow pro-democracy legislator Kwok Ka-ki found himself in a similar situation, and carried a stack of files against his chest to conceal a light-gold tie.

He might have been there in spirit, but vehement democracy proponent Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung missed the one-minute tribute by arriving five minutes late.

The drama started at 2.30pm, when Mrs Fan entered the chamber. When the pro-democracy legislators remained standing, she said: 'Legislators, please sit down.'

Unionist Lee Cheuk-yan then said: 'All legislators, please stand up and observe a minute of silence for Mr Zhao Ziyang.'

Mrs Fan replied: 'As Lee Cheuk-yan failed to behave himself, the meeting is adjourned.'

While the 24 pro-democracy legislators observed their minute's silence, pro-government legislators and officials filed out of the chamber.

The democrats had sat down again before Dr Cheung, dressed in a black leather jacket, came in.

Mrs Fan returned about half an hour later but, as the minutes ticked by and nobody else arrived, she gave up and adjourned the session. Later, she revealed that she had been busy during the adjournment, meeting with legislators from rival camps.

She first had a short chat with Mr Lee, explaining that the democrats had breached the rules of procedure. She also wanted to talk to 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung but he refused to meet her.

She then discussed the quorum with Liberal Party chairman James Tien Pei-chun, Abraham Razack, of The Alliance, and Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong.

At a press conference later, Mr Leung quoted a poem by the writer Bei Dao to explain the pro-democracy legislators' action.

'Debasement is the password of the base. Nobility is the epitaph of the noble,' he declared loudly.