Zeng urges Hong Kong to work for the common good
Democratic camp disappointed state leader did not respond to calls for universal suffrage
Vice-President Zeng Qinghong last night urged the people of Hong Kong to set aside their differences and seek common ground, and to promote social harmony as well as the city's economic development.
But he kept the 25 pro-democracy lawmakers at bay during an official banquet, the only chance for the members to get close to the visiting leader during his three-day visit. They were seated well away from Mr Zeng's head table.
Legislators did not even get a chance to shake hands with Mr Zeng as he entered the ballroom at the Island Shangri-La when everyone was already seated.
The democrats said the gathering was a good beginning, but some said it was disappointing that Mr Zeng did not meet them and respond to the question of universal suffrage.
Addressing the 400 guests from different sectors, Mr Zeng said he had two expectations for Hong Kong: for it to seize the opportunity for development and be 'generous for common good'.
'It is our common responsibility to ensure that Hong Kong continues to enjoy good governance, solidarity, prosperity and stability.
'To achieve social harmony in such a diversified society as Hong Kong, the key lies in seeking common ground while reserving differences, and in being generous for common good,' he said.
He also reiterated Beijing's support for the Hong Kong government, pledging to strengthen co-operation between the mainland and Hong Kong in various fields.
But he did not make direct reference to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's leadership during his 10-minute speech.
In the opening remarks of his own speech, Mr Tsang attributed the recent improvements in Hong Kong to the concerted efforts of the government, the community as well as the care and support from Beijing.
He believed that people of differing opinions would be able to find harmony.
'I am sure that we are of one heart in our love for our country and Hong Kong. Because of this, we can find harmony among our differences.
'This harmony among differences enables us to overcome prejudices and stride forward in unison,' he said.
Stressing his people-oriented governance as the way forward, Mr Tsang praised Mr Zeng for his friendly approach to the local public.
'Vice-President Zeng has quoted a saying: 'No medals are better than compliments from the people; no trophies are better than public praise.'
'That aptly underlines the direction in which we are going. And Vice-President Zeng's smile and approachable demeanour when he meets the public are the best illustration of this.'
Earlier in the day, the democratic allies issued a joint letter to Mr Zeng, urging Beijing to withdraw its decision against universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, review the verdict on the crackdown of June 4, 1989, and release journalist Ching Cheong, who has been detained on the mainland.
Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat later said the party shared Mr Zeng's views on harmony and common good but stressed democracy would provide the foundation for development.
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, of the Article 45 Concern Group, said he was happy that the status of lawmakers was officially recognised.
'But I am a little disappointed that as the vice-president did not respond to our wish for dialogue and universal suffrage,' he said.