Carrie Lam aims to get pan-democrats breaking bread over breakfast with Beijing reps

Chief secretary wants talks on electoral reform

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 10:46am

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is planning to get pan-democrats to break bread with Beijing's top officials in Hong Kong next month in order to discuss electoral reform.

It comes just a month after the pan-democratic camp refused an invitation from the central government's liaison office to talk political reform over dinner at their Sai Wan headquarters.

A Beijing official and the constitutional minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen yesterday confirmed plans for the get-together, possibly over breakfast, but pan-democrats were divided over whether to attend.

Last July, liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming was invited to lunch with lawmakers in Legco, with even pan-democrat radicals like "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung in attendance - albeit to hand over letters of protest before walking out. And last month the chief secretary brought almost all the city's lawmakers round a dinner table - this time, minus Long Hair - to discuss reforms over a series of four banquets held at her official residence on The Peak.

Tam, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, said: "After the first series of dinners, some lawmakers wanted the chief secretary to host similar events involving liaison officials.

"Perhaps this round [of encounters] would be in the form of breakfast, somewhere around Admiralty or Central."

He added the government was willing to help arrange separate talks between pan-democrat parties and liaison officials.

Central government liaison office deputy director Yin Xiaojing said the office was "communicating" with local officials and pan-democrats over the details. The venue has yet to be decided.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Civic Party lawmaker and vice-chairman of Legco's House Committee, said he was in talks with the government about the meals, the first of which could be held before the end of next month.

He believed, with Lam as host, fellow pan-democrats would find the invitation easier to accept.

"They may feel freer to speak their minds if they go as individuals for a meal with liaison office [representatives] under the SAR government's co-ordination," said Tong.

However, People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said he wouldn't be going.

"It is extremely inappropriate, because political reform is an extremely serious topic, and if you want to talk about it, you should do it with a formal agenda, under a formal system, with formal arrangements, and in an open meeting," he said.

Chan added that Beijing had "already made up its mind" on the city's political reform.

The government's initial consultation on reform ends in May.