POLITICS

Pan-democrats cry foul over snub by visiting Basic Law pair

Mainland Basic Law pair will not be meeting democracy lawmakers during visit to city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 1:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 9:01am

Pan-democrats say they have been snubbed in arrangements for a visit to the city by two members of the Basic Law Committee to collect views on constitutional reform.

Lawmakers across the spectrum urged the Beijing officials to listen to a diverse range of opinions to pave the way for universal suffrage in 2017.

Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei and vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun start their three-day visit this afternoon and have an itinerary filled with meetings with legal and other sectors - but not the pan-democrats.

Civic Party lawmakers Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Dennis Kwok will meet the pair tomorrow, but in their capacity as vice-chairmen of key Legco committees.

Twenty-three pan-democrats sent a letter to Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor, who invited the legal duo, urging them not to set restrictions for reform. The consultation starts next month.

"The consultation will be meaningless if the central government lays down any candidate-screening framework," the letter said.

Lawmakers - including Beijing-loyalists - only knew of the visit when it was announced by the government late on Tuesday.

Li, who is also deputy secretary-general of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and Zhang, vice-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Commission, will meet Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying today.

Tomorrow they will meet more than 100 representatives of various sectors at a lunch hosted by the chief secretary at Government House.

Among the guests will be Basic Law Committee deputy director Elsie Leung Oi-sie and representatives of business chambers and district councils.

Despite the Legislative Council's pivotal role in passing any reform proposal, only seven lawmakers chairing Legco and its key committees - the house committee, constitutional affairs, and legal panels - are invited

Tong, deputy chairman of the house committee, was looking forward to a "meaningful legal exchange".

A key focus of the reform debate is whether the public should be allowed to nominate chief executive candidates.

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said it was important the officials did not give the impression Beijing would take the lead in reform. "The matter should be spearheaded by the government and Legco," she said.