Hong Kong lawmakers turn out in force for first lunch gathering with new leader Carrie Lam
Chief executive promises to improve relationship between executive and legislative branches of city’s government
Nearly 60 out of 68 lawmakers, including 16 from the opposition, turned up on Monday for their first luncheon with Hong Kong’s new leader, who has promised to improve strained ties between the executive and legislature.
The turnout at Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s gathering at the Legislative Council contrasted sharply with the farewell lunch a month ago for her unpopular predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, which the pan-democrats boycotted.
On Monday, for the first time since November 2015, three pan-democrats sat at the head table with Lam – Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and health services representative Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long.
But the trio said it was too early to conclude whether this signalled the start of better relations.
“I would not say whether our relationship with the executive branch has improved or worsened just because we had a meal with the chief executive,” Yeung said.
“At least there was a meal,” Wu added. “But I did not talk to her because we were quite far apart at the table.”
While Yeung and Wu said they were asked to sit at the head table, Lee and most of the other lawmakers were allocated seating based on drawing lots. Lee said that once he arrived at his table, Lam asked him to sit with her to discuss health service issues.
As the lunch was about to start, Yeung as well as party colleagues Dennis Kwok and Tanya Chan handed petitions to Lam, urging her to ask Beijing to let critically ill mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo seek medical treatment abroad.
League of Social Democrats lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung handed her a petition demanding better labour rights and did not stay on for lunch.
Twelve opposition lawmakers, including Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Claudia Mo Man-ching, did not attend the event.
“I never sign up for this kind of gathering because it’s perfunctory,” Mo said.
Lam also attended a reception in the evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the government’s biggest political ally in the legislature, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).
She hailed party members as her “all-weather friends”.
“We must help relieve the pressure of the parties, and ‘share the bonus’ with good governance and policies,” Lam said, referring to DAB founding chairman Jasper Tsang Yok-sing’s previous claim that supporting the government would only bring “humiliation and no glory”.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung