Pan-democrat lawmakers boycott Chief Executive CY Leung's lunch
Nearly half of those elected, including all but three pan-democrats, skip event intended to help chief executive build ties with legislature
Just over half of the 70 newly elected lawmakers attended a lunch hosted by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying at the Admiralty government offices yesterday.
Major pan-democratic parties, citing national education as a main sticking point, boycotted the gathering, one of Leung's first attempts to build a working relationship with the new legislature.
Despite the boycott, Leung struck an upbeat tone.
He said the lunch was meant to show the great importance he attached to the relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the government.
"Sixteen among 20 principal officials in our administration are here today, to congratulate the newly elected lawmakers and those who have just won another term," Leung said.
"I wish that today will be a good start … [and I] hope to build Hong Kong in a better and quicker manner with the Legislative Council as well as all lawmakers."
The pro-government camp won 43 seats in the September 9 Legco election showdown, while the pan-democrats took the remaining 27.
Only 38 lawmakers attended yesterday's lunch, of which 35 were pro-government members, including almost all the camp's new faces.
The three pan-democratic attendees were newly elected Charles Mok of the information technology sector, Joseph Lee Kok-long of health services and Frederick Fung Kin-kee from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood.
Three other pan-democrats - NeoDemocrat new face Gary Fan Kwok-wai, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and the Labour Party's Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung - handed petitions to Leung but left before the meal.
The trio called for the withdrawal of the national education curriculum and for rights for the disabled.
The Democratic Party and Civic Party stayed away. They said Leung had not done enough to allay worries over national education. The chief executive scrapped a three-year deadline for implementation and allowed schools to decide whether to teach the subject.
Leung held the lunch about a week after the election, in contrast to the practise of his predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, whose lunch with the new legislature four years ago - hosted by Legco - took place in late October, more than a month after the ballot. Tsang did not return the gesture until December 2008, when more than two-thirds of lawmakers turned up.
Meanwhile, outgoing Legco secretary general Pauline Ng Man-wah said she expected plenary sessions to take longer in the new term, starting next month.
"Because we have 10 more legislators … plenary sessions every Wednesday may last two hours longer, probably until midnight," Ng said. "It may also continue for two to three more hours on Thursdays, and Thursday sessions may become a routine."