People's Daily offers rare balanced view on pan-democrats' position

State media article on city's politics eschews one-sided reporting to publish names of the pan-democrats and describe their positions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 April, 2013, 5:42am

An official mouthpiece of the Communist Party broke with its usual practice by publishing a relatively balanced report on the row between pan-democrats and Beijing loyalists over the city's upcoming political reform.

The article appeared in yesterday's overseas edition of the People's Daily, and cited the views of Emily Lau Wai-hing, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, and Dr Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, who is organising next summer's Occupy Central movement.

Mainland newspapers usually refer to pan-democrats as "the opposition camp" and rarely mention them by name.

Printed in the Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau section on page three, the article summarised the recent debate surrounding the speech that Qiao Xiaoyang , chairman of the Law Committee under the National People's Congress, delivered to pro-establishment lawmakers at a closed-door seminar in Shenzhen on March 24.

Qiao said any members of the opposition camp who insisted on confronting the central government could not become chief executive, and the NPC's Standing Committee reserved the right to veto the election of any chief executive of who it did not approve.

The report mentioned the views of pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Kwok-hing, of the Federation of Trade Unions, Hong Kong Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie and others who supported Qiao's view.

But it devoted three paragraphs to opposing views by Lau, Tai and "the person in charge of the Civic Party", a reference to its chairwoman, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee.

"However, not everyone in Hong Kong understood Qiao's speech from the same angle [as pro-Beijing figures]," the article read.

"Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau said the 'screening mechanism' was to 'screen out unpopular figures' whom the central government thinks do not fulfil the criteria of 'love country, love Hong Kong'.

"That does not fulfil the international standard of universal suffrage and the [Democratic] party will not accept that," the article said.

It gave a brief account of Tai's plan to mobilise 10,000 people to block traffic in the heart of the city in July of next year, unless the government delivers an acceptable proposal for universal suffrage.

While the overseas edition is not aimed at mainland readers, the article was available on the main paper's website.

It was also picked up by other news portals, including Xinhuanet, Sina News, China News Service and the website of state broadcaster China Central Television. Over 50,000 comments had been made on the Sina News portal by last night.

Lau said it was "a step forward" for mainland media to cite the views of pan-democrats.

But she would not say whether the gesture meant the central government would talk with them about electoral reform.

The overseas edition of the People's Daily is available on the mainland, in Hong Kong and overseas, including in the United States, Japan, Australia and South Africa.