Hong Kong’s pan-democrat lawmakers should accept Beijing’s hand of friendship
Eugene Kin-Keung Chan says pan-democratic legislators should seize the opportunity to have more fruitful communication with the central government’s liaison office, to help Hong Kong overcome its many challenges
Many observers in Hong Kong and Taiwan believe relations have warmed of late between the central government and Hong Kong’s pan-democrats.
For one thing, nine pan-democratic legislators accepted an invitation to a three-day visit to Dongguan and Shenzhen to learn more about the Greater Bay Area and did not create any trouble to embarrass the hosts. Also, the four disqualified pro-democracy legislators have not been asked to return the full salaries they received before they were ousted. In addition, Wang Zhimin, head of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, on his first visit to the Legislative Council building, invited pan-democratic lawmakers to visit his office in Western district as a gesture of goodwill.
Some pan-democrats have openly said they were wary of Wang’s invitation. In fact, some are expected to continue to clamour for an end to “one-party dictatorship” in China, even though Wang and other mainland officials have said that such calls run counter to the Chinese constitution – which upholds the leadership of the Communist Party – and is thus “politically unethical”, even illegal.
The pan-democrats’ attitude has cast doubt on how far the thaw in relations can go.
An effective lawmaking body is necessary for the healthy development of the city. Hong Kong faces many challenges: a limited supply of land for housing, a high cost of living and doing business, and dwindling opportunities and lack of social mobility for our young, just to name a few. Legislators, who are paid handsomely, are expected to discharge their duties as stipulated in Article 73 of the Basic Law, which are primarily to enact and repeal laws, examine the government budget, review the work of the government and debate policies of public interest.
No one likes to see legislators turn our lawmaking body into a stage for political farce or gladiatorial contests.
On his visit to Legco, Wang called on lawmakers to embrace “togetherness” and stay true to their mission, for the good of the Chinese people. As a representative of the central government in the city, Wang is charged with the task of fostering a good relationship with the people of Hong Kong. In this spirit, he has extended an invitation to lawmakers, who are considered representatives of public opinion, to visit his office.
Shouldn’t our lawmakers seize the opportunity to exchange views with the central government? If such communication could lead to less friction and help Hong Kong overcome its many challenges, shouldn’t pan-democrat lawmakers discard their suspicion and respond favourably to the liaison office’s act of goodwill?
It is an irreversible trend that Hong Kong’s development is increasingly tied to the nation’s growth, and some of the key policy and livelihood issues the special administrative region faces will inevitably have an impact across the border as well.
The development and planning of the Greater Bay Area, for example, is a matter of national strategic significance, important not just to Beijing but also to Hong Kong. Legco can and should discuss the plan rationally.
Are pan-democratic legislators ready to fulfil their responsibilities faithfully? Both Beijing and many Hongkongers are waiting to see their next move.
Dr Eugene Kin-Keung Chan is president of the Association of Hong Kong Professionals