Pan-democrats willing to meet Zhang for ‘open’ debate
Invitation for more talks on electoral reform with mainland officials in Hong Kong gets positive response, but with a couple of provisos
Tony Cheung and Tanna Chong
At least 12 pan-democrats have expressed interest in meeting the Beijing liaison office chief in Hong Kong - but there may be strings attached.
A day after Zhang Xiaoming extended his invitation to the 17 pan-democratic lawmakers who did not attend Sunday's talks with central government officials in Shanghai, the initial positive responses included provisos that the discussion could be recorded and Zhang demonstrate that Beijing actually wanted to listen to Hongkongers' views on political reform.
During the Shanghai meeting with Zhang, Li Fei , chairman of the Basic Law Committee, and Wang Guangya , director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, pan-democrats were told there was no chance of the public being allowed to choose which candidates could stand in the 2017 chief executive election.
"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, who flew back to Hong Kong on Friday after refusing to surrender petitions related to the June 4 crackdown on arrival at Shanghai airport, said: "I have no problem with [meeting Zhang], as long as he lets me record it.
"I have set aside HK$50,000 to produce DVDs of the meeting and distribute them to the public."
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing suggested her party would be happy with a "transparent" meeting. "Of course, we would like to communicate with the officials, but it isn't really our style to record the meeting," she added.
The party's former chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said: "We have no resistance to meeting him - but only if he is insincere … if you're going to screen out [dissidents from having a chance to run] and break the promise [on democracy] anyway, any talks would be meaningless."
Labour Party lawmakers Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Peter Cheung Kwok-che, who flew back to Hong Kong on Saturday in support of Leung, said they "wouldn't refuse to communicate" with mainland officials but had not decided whether to accept Zhang's invitation.
"I hope the officials can have an open attitude, because we are worried that Beijing is not thinking about making any compromises until Hongkongers finally accept a fake universal suffrage," Ho said in an RTHK interview.
Any meeting is likely to be held within two months.
For pan-democrats who were at Sunday's meeting, Beijing's stance did not halt their battle for public nomination. Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said that without at least a nominating committee elected by a large mandate, universal suffrage would be unable to solve the chief executive's credibility problem.
On RTHK yesterday morning, Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah said his party's executive committee had initially "overreacted" when it considered asking him and his party colleagues Dennis Kwok and Dr Kwok Ka-ki in Shanghai to abort their trip following a stand-off between security guards and the two Kwoks and in light of Leung's earlier treatment.
The Civic Party was later told that the guards were only worried about having too many journalists following the pair. In the event, Tong drew criticism for continuing on with most of the scheduled visits, while the Kwoks skipped official events and gave out fliers on reform to Hongkongers in the mainland city.
Ties between Beijing and the pan-democrats were further strained on Sunday when Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming returned from a trip to North America with news that the United States had decided to resume annual reports to Congress on political developments in Hong Kong.