Rival Hong Kong lawmakers break the ice with first talks in five years
Democratic Party chief says there could be further collaboration on livelihood issues, but radicals are excluded from lunch meeting
Pro-establishment and pan-democratic lawmakers met over lunch on Thursday to discuss possible co-operation – the first such move in five years.
Although no consensus was reached, it was a significant step forward as relations between the camps have become divisive on issues such as political reform under the administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
But those in the democratic camp considered “radical” were not invited by the pro-government lawmakers who initiated the meeting.
Martin Liao Cheung-kong, co-ordinator of the pro-Beijing bloc, said after the event at the Dynasty Club in Wan Chai that it was only a “social lunch”.
“We talked about public policies such as education, environmental protection, housing and land. There are no plans for another meeting yet,” Liao said.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People’s Party, described the atmosphere as cordial and said she looked forward to more such gatherings.
Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Dennis Kwok of the Professional Guilds were the three representatives of the camp invited.
Wu said the meeting was the “starting point” of any further discussion of topics including political reform, which has been the sticking point.
Beijing’s conditions for electing Hong Kong’s leader, laid down in 2014, were rejected as too restrictive and undemocratic by opposition lawmakers, who over the past five years have often sought to block unpopular government bills and funding applications.
Wu suggested exploring co-operation on easier livelihood subjects, citing a recent cross-party delegation to inspect the Dongjiang, or East River, basin on the mainland, the major source of Hong Kong’s water supply.
More collaboration might be possible on other issues, he said, such as air pollution and waste management.
“We still need a long time to build up a [regular] working relationship before we can talk about political reform together,” he said.
Other lawmakers in his camp, including “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, People Power’s Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, the Labour Party’s Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung and advocates of Hong Kong self-determination like Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Lau Siu-lai were not asked to the lunch.