image

Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong to host 1,500 visitors – but don’t call them ‘open’ days critics say

Event will be held this Saturday and Sunday with tour guides showing guests around six of the building’s lower floors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 10:59am

Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong expects about 1,500 people to visit its headquarters for its first open days this weekend, but critics say the event is hardly open with only select groups invited.

News of the event came just days after office director Wang Zhimin used his first visit to the city’s Legislative Council since taking up the post last September to push for rational decision-making and patriotism as core values of the chamber, and extended an invitation to lawmakers to tour his premises in Western district – an offer the opposition pan-democrats viewed with suspicion.

Wang said in February that the office would soon be open to visits from the public. According to China News Agency, from this year the office would be opened half-yearly.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that the event would be held this coming Saturday and Sunday, with Wang officiating at an opening ceremony on Saturday morning. 

Media groups were also invited to the event.

A source familiar with arrangements for the open days revealed that tour guides would show visitors around six of the lower floors of the more than 30-storey building. About 1,500 were expected over the two days.

Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong invites pan-democrats to his office. Why are they so wary?

“Apart from the reception and meeting rooms from the ground floor to the second floor, there will be exhibitions on the third floor showcasing photographs taken by liaison office staff,” the source said.

“Staff members’ Chinese calligraphy works and paintings will also be shown … We hope that the open days will allow people to understand us more from up close.” 

In the canteen on the eighth floor, visitors would get to taste snacks made by staff, while in the activity room on the ninth floor, there would be a chance to play table tennis or snooker with employees.

However, the event would only be open to those invited by the liaison office or Beijing-friendly community groups. 

Chan Hok-fung, vice-chairman of Central and Western District Council, said he asked several constituents to attend after being told to help the liaison office invite a few visitors.

“It is good for the office to be reaching out and liaising with the public,” Chan said.

But Democratic Party vice-chairman Lo Kin-hei, a Southern district councillor, said that if the office was genuine about improving its public image it should stop meddling in the city’s affairs.

“I don’t think Hong Kong people will believe the liaison office is sensitive to their concerns just because you can play ping-pong with them … I’ll be happy as long as the office doesn’t interfere with our issues,” Lo said.

The liaison office was said to have been involved in lobbying pro-establishment lawmakers over policy issues during former chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s term as leader.