Beijing’s travel permit U-turn ‘like beating me up then offering me tea’, veteran pan-democrat says
Former Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan believes move is meant to create division in opposition camp rather than serve as olive branch
Beijing’s decision to once again accept applications from opposition politicians for documents allowing them to enter the mainland is akin to “offering them tea” after a bout of forceful suppression, according to a veteran pan-democrat.
Former Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan believed the move was made to create division in the opposition camp rather than as a sincere offer of an olive branch, as it has been framed.
“They are essentially saying, you were being naughty before so we won’t give you [your home-return permits]. Now there are people who are naughtier than you, so we won’t give it to them but will give it to you,” Lee said on a local radio programme on Thursday.
He pointed out that the offer was made after Beijing’s recent interpretation of the Basic Law, which had “destroyed the rule of law and ‘one country, two systems’”.
“Every time they suppress Hong Kong, they follow up with these kinds of fake acts of grace and kindness.”
Lee, secretary-general of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, also stressed that he and many others were banned from entering the mainland after returning from Beijing in June 1989 a few days after the violent crackdown in Tiananmen Square.
“It’s like beating me up and then offering me tea. But will this tea taste good?” he said. “I don’t think it’s an act of sincerity but more to moderate the atmosphere ... Hong Kong’s attention should not be diverted.”
Speaking on the same programme, outgoing Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said allowing pan-democrats to apply for home-return permits did not mean they would be allowed freedom of mobility or activity on the mainland.
Lau said her party would discuss the development, but if there was any dialogue with officials on the mainland, she hoped it would not be with the Democratic Party only.
Both Lau and Lee said they had no plans to apply for the permit or to visit the mainland unless it was for a meaningful political cause.
The Hong Kong government officially confirmed on Wednesday night the relaxing of entry restrictions imposed on “certain Legislative Council members and other persons” for entering mainland China.
This came hours after the change was first revealed by Robert Chow Yung, convenor of the pro-establishment group Silent Majority for Hong Kong after a meeting in Beijing with Wang Guangya, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Lee said a “positive” way to look at the development was that it appeared to be a snub by the central government against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – a deliberate attempt not to let him take credit for the move.
“This is something that should be announced by the HKSAR government first. Perhaps they feel [Leung] has messed up.”