Pan-democrats have managed to secure an exclusive meeting with central government officials in Shanghai - and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying won't be there.
After weeks of negotiation between pan-democrats and the mainland authorities, Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has confirmed that the pan-democrats will have a two-hour reform discussion with the officials on Sunday.
Tsang said the separate meeting would be the second half of a 31/2-hour political reform seminar with Wang Guangya , director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and Basic Law Committee chairman Li Fei .
"There will first be a meeting for all lawmakers, then some of them will stay behind after the first part," Tsang said yesterday after an hour-long meeting with the pan-democrats.
"The central government officials knew some of our lawmakers would like to separately exchange views with them. So the pan-democrats will stay behind while the pro-government lawmakers are willing to accommodate their requests."
Leung will attend only the early session, but Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen will sit in for the pan-democrats' meeting. "We hope to ensure all lawmakers will have sufficient time for discussion with the officials," said Tsang, who will also stay behind to co-ordinate pan-democrats' speeches "according to the order they requested".
The 57 lawmakers joining the Shanghai trip, including 14 pan-democrats, will start their programme tomorrow, while the Beijing officials will not arrive in the city until Sunday.
Sin Chung-kai, one of the two Democratic Party representatives, said a two-hour meeting was too short for pan-democrats to discuss electoral reform with Beijing officials.
He said that while most would join other formal events, "we will probably skip the sight-seeing" to such places as the Hongqiao business district and the Bund.
Pan-democrats' co-ordinator Frederick Fung Kin-kee said they would meet today to discuss the speaking order. "The baseline is that each pan-democrat would be able to speak at least once," he said.
"Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, of the League of Social Democrats, and the Labour Party's Cyd Ho Sau-lan - both without home-return permits - applied for a one-off pass at the China Travel Service yesterday.