National delegates abandon bid to set up office in HK
A group comprising local delegates to national political bodies has shelved a long-standing attempt to persuade the Hong Kong government to grant it office space, to avoid further controversy over their role in the city's governance. The Friends of Hong Kong Association has discussed with the government in recent years the possibility of being allocated space to hold activities.
The association had hoped that such premises could serve as a venue for gatherings of its members, including delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and deputies to the National People's Congress. But recently fears have arisen that the Beijing-loyalist group would interfere in Hong Kong's governance.
Most local delegates to the NPC and CPPCC are members of the association, which was founded in 1989. A source close to the association said the office could serve as a de facto liaison office for the delegates, and the arrangement would not be politically sensitive, as the association was a non-governmental organisation.
Since the handover, Hong Kong deputies to the NPC have called for a local office, to receive public complaints relating to their activities on the mainland. In March last year, Qiao Xiaoyang , deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee, vetoed proposals, saying delegates did not need to hang up a 'signboard' in the city to carry out their duties. Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC have also called for an office to be set up.
But the source said the association had decided not to pursue the idea following a row sparked by a Wen Wei Po report in March saying that Li Guikang, deputy director of the central government's liaison office, told delegates the office had reached consensus with the Hong Kong government on measures strengthening CPPCC delegates' roles. These included the nomination of delegates by the Hong Kong government, the appointment of CPPCC delegates to public offices in the city and the provision of venues for local delegates. Mr Li denied there was such an agreement. Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung also said no agreement had been reached. The source said: 'We shelved the plan because we don't want to stir up further controversy over the role of delegates to the CPPCC and NPC.'
Lau Nai-keung, a former Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC, said there was a need to set up an office for Hong Kong delegates to the body.
'The association should not have dropped the plan,' he said.