• Thu
  • Jul 31, 2014
  • Updated: 7:09pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Lawmakers should not spurn Shanghai offer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 4:57am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 5:19am

There appears to be a thaw in political tension between Beijing and pan-democratic lawmakers in Hong Kong. In a rare move, the central government has invited all legislators to visit Shanghai next month. The gesture is significant in that it is the third invitation in 10 years for local lawmakers, some of whom are barred from visiting the mainland because of their dissenting views. Given the prevailing divide over constitutional reform, there is no better way to bridge the gap than inviting all 70 members to cross the border and discuss issues of mutual concern. Credit goes to the chief executive for securing the trip.

Regrettably, the invitation has already been cold-shouldered by some pan-democrats. Their explanations are difficult to understand. For instance, Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said she would never set foot on the soil of mainland China until she could travel freely. Others dismissed the trip as a propaganda show, saying there is no point going if discussions are held behind closed doors.

The lawmakers may think they have valid reasons to boycott the trip. But their actions are mere political gestures that will not help narrow the gap. They will disappoint those who voted for them to make a difference. Instead of seizing opportunities to push their demands, they have opted for a non-engagement approach. This falls short of public expectations that our lawmakers should act with the city's best interests at heart.

The agenda of the two-day trip remains unclear at this stage. Nor do we know whom the legislators will meet. But the trip has been touted as an opportunity for Beijing and lawmakers, in particular the pan-democrats who command enough votes to veto any reform package, to discuss constitutional reform. It will be up to the Legislative Council to make the best of it.

If the two previous trips to the Shanghai Expo in 2010 and Guangzhou in 2005 are any reference, they are rich in symbolic meaning but lack substance. If the coming trip is meant to smooth the way forward for constitutional reform, it will take exceptional endeavour on both sides to make a breakthrough. Nonetheless, it is a good starting point.

Consensus can never arise from frosty relations. Dialogue is always preferable to confrontation. At stake is the future of Hong Kong. Legislators should put side personal interest and try to build common ground to move forward. Only through exchange and compromise can universal suffrage be achieved.

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This article is now closed to comments

XYZ
I agree that political reform in Hong Kong and the withholding or issuance of home-return permits to pan-democrats are separate issues.
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However, I also agree with those pan-dems who consider it to be an insult to be asked by mainland officials to travel to Shanghai on the basis that they are granted special, one-off permission from the central government to do so.
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If the mainland officials are sincere in their desire to discuss political reform in Hong Kong in an atmosphere of mutual respect, then these same officials should issue proper permanent home-return permits to all pan-dems who want them.
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If the Chinese officials are not prepared to do that, then they shouldn't expect the pan-dems to attend such meetings held on the mainland.
wytlau
I really don't understand what the pan-democrats end-game is? I support their ideals but to repeatedly refuse to engage in discussions with mainland officials is childish and defeatist. Under the one country two systems principle, the pan-democrats must surely realise that the mainland has a legitimate interest in shaping the 2017 process. Isn't it better to engage the PRC government to try to find some consensus rather than to keep stonewalling and refusing to engage the other side. Pan-democrats need to realise they are losing alot of support through their current tactics.
siulun2050
Aren't legislators representatives of HK? Then start representing.
hm03
Agree... I think the lawmakers should just give it a chance and go. Maybe something will indeed come good out of it.
China's not going to give in and maybe the trip is an opportunity to find a middle ground.
XYZ
If, as you say, China's not going to give in, then what prospect is there of finding a middle ground? If pan-dem LegCo members can't all be granted home return permits like all other Chinese people, then why attend? China lacks sincerity. It wants tribute and kowtows, not dialogue.
XYZ
Ms. Emily Lau's objection is a principled one and I commend her for it.
ianson
SCMP, you look more like the CCP Hong Kong Daily every day. The CCP is brazenly stealing democracy from Hong Kong and you say people who genuinely care for Hong Kong's freedoms should go for a chummy chat with them. Window-dressing is not what we need; it's a clear statement from China, first, that there will be no tricks preventing an open nomination of candidates for election, then they can have all the lunches they like.
honger
no tricks? what trickery are u implying? of course u are not happy taht people from all sides could sit down and have a chat, u just want them to show up on the streets shouting, right?
 
 
 
 
 

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