Shanghai visit promises drama that will keep us watching

Impending meeting to discuss reform promises drama that will have us on the edge of our seats

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 4:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 4:40am

Our legislators have never had it so good. First, they were invited to breakfast by the chief secretary. Now, they are invited to Shanghai.

But only a fool would think this visit a joyride; it is anything but. With China's move to tighten the anti-corruption belt, the visit is likely to be austere: no frills, no thrills, and no mao-tai.

The visit should, however, present a good opportunity for those important to Hong Kong's legislative future to meet and talk eyeball to eyeball. Talking makes everyone look good. Like a hydrant, it may also come in handy to extinguish fires.

In the extraordinary political arena, the opportunity to talk is always treasured. Every good politician worth his salt is - or should be - an opportunist. This means he will or should grab every chance, however unlikely, to put his best foot forward to win votes and applause.

The pro-establishment legislators were the first to sign up for the trip. "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung was the first among the pan-democrats to do the same. No doubt, they all saw the chance to strut their stuff.

Apart from some legislators and their supporters currently on a hunger strike, campaigning for genuine universal suffrage, the other legislators in the pan-democratic camp agreed to go to Shanghai - but only if they could meet Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs on their own, separate from the pro-establishment legislators.

Should this happen, it is expected that electoral reforms and the need for a genuine election without unreasonable political screening will be items on the agenda. Other topics, such as the Basic Law's Article 23, assorted human rights issues and the rehabilitation of June 4 protesters, are also expected to be in the subtext, which might crop up to put any unprepared hosts on the back foot.

But common sense tells us that, at the best of times, political discussions are difficult. The meeting of minds with an attitude is bound to be a sticky wicket. If badly handled, it could cut a swathe through the reform and might lead to an immediate showdown in Shanghai or a kiss of death for Hong Kong's future electoral reforms.

And it should not surprise anyone that some legislators might hit international media headlines, or be nominated for Oscars, for playing the role of protagonists, antagonists, ventriloquists, or even kung fu fighters. I am, of course, guessing now.

All this is bound to keep us, keen TV watchers in Hong Kong, on tenterhooks. No matter what, though, I believe our legislators of whatever political persuasion will be themselves, frank and sincere, Hong Kong-style, warts and all.

President Xi Jinping on his trip to Europe compared China to a lion, now wide awake, peace-loving and lovely. I wonder if it ever occurred to him that our cute little Hong Kong lion cubs might beard the lion in its den. Metaphorically, of course.

Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien was secretary for health and welfare from 1990 to 1994 and a lawmaker from 1995 to 1997