Radical legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, who returned to Hong Kong after a row with custom officers at Shanghai airport on Friday night, said the treatment he had received on the mainland was “unacceptable.”
Leung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats, decided to boycott a much anticipated meeting between Hong Kong pan-democratic lawmakers and senior Beijing officials after custom officers asked him to turn in 'sensitive items" he was carrying, including leaflets and T-shirts bearing words in support of Tiananmen Mothers, a group formed by mothers whose children died in the 1989 crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests.
Leung refused to cooperate and later got on a plane to Hong Kong with two other lawmakers.
A spokesman from the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong said the office regretted that Leung had opted out voluntarily. The spokesman said he believed the trip for the other lawmakers would proceed smoothly, and that Shanghai immigration officers’ move was “completely” in line with Chinese laws.
“(Immigration officers) said they would withhold those items, and that I must ‘voluntarily’ give them up,” Leung said. “I can bear with (their reactions over) the T-shirt. But they found even a letter unacceptable, what else could I do? Then I told them I would return to Hong Kong voluntarily.”
Leung was carrying letters addressed to Shanghai Communist Party chief Han Zheng, and director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Wang Guangya. The letters demanded that Chinese government launch an official reassessment of the 1989 crackdown and release political prisoners. They also urged for a civil nomination of candidates in the 2017 chief executive election.
Leung was stopped by an officer who requested to check his luggage, when he was smoking outside a VIP lounge reserved for the group. He was then escorted to a room accompanied by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.
He said one of his letters with the word “redress” on the envelope, was also deemed “sensitive.” He then removed the envelope and handed the letter of complaints from disgruntled Hong Kong manufacturers on the mainland, to Tsang, who would continue his trip in Shanghai.
After a stand-off of about 20 minutes, Leung decided to boycott the meeting and return to Hong Kong.
Leung boarded the last flight back, according to Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and fellow pan-democrat Charles Mok, who both witnessed the confrontation.
Legislator Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Peter Cheung Kwok-che, both from the Labour Party, also decided to return this morning in support of Leung. They said they would board a returning flight around noon.
“We welcome the Beijing officials to come to Hong Kong and discuss with us,” said Ho. “We are very open. Hong Kong is a free city and people with different political views can enter.”
But others from the pan-democratic camp decided to proceed with the trip. The delegation is scheduled to meet state officials tomorrow to discuss electoral reform in Hong Kong, and Legco chief Tsang said he hoped the incident would not affect the dialogue.
“It is regrettable and is a pity … I hope the incident won’t seriously affect the way the visit is being conducted,” Tsang said.
Moderate pan-democrat Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, said the incident had increased tensions between the pan-democrats and Beijing,.
“The main goal of this trip is to discuss the political reform with Beijing officials, which would be the first time in over 10 years … We treasure this opportunity …,” Fung said.