Two pan-democrats say Hong Kong government snubbed them on handover commemoration
Pair say they were not invited to handover celebration despite pledge to build bridges
Two pan-democratic lawmakers have accused the government of reneging on its promise to rebuild its relationship with their camp after they were left out of today's official celebrations marking the 18th anniversary of the handover.
The revelation by the League of Social Democrats' "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and the Civic Party's Claudia Mo Man-ching came as the pro-democracy camp said it expected to see a drop in the turnout for the annual July 1 march today.
The debate on political reform has waned since the government's package for the 2017 chief executive election was voted down last month.
Leung, who was invited to the annual flag-raising ceremony and the subsequent reception in previous years, said he was snubbed for the first time since being elected as a legislator in 2004. "The government's refusal to invite lawmakers to attend the activities is to belittle the [Legislative Council] and constitutes political discrimination," Leung said, adding that his protests at the annual event should not be a reason to exclude him from the celebrations.
Mo, who took office in 2012, said she thought it was the first time she hadn't received an invitation. She said she thought it was due to her advocating a position that the government should put Hongkongers first, often dubbed localism. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying pointed to Mo in March as the organiser of anti-mainlander protests, which Mo denied.
Leung Kwok-hung and Mo said the snub proved Leung Chun-ying was not honouring his promise to forge a new relationship with lawmakers after the reform package's failure.
"If Leung Chun-ying indeed wants to offer an olive branch to the pan-democrats, he should have invited all of us," said Mo, who called the move "very naive".
The Home Affairs Department, which is responsible for the commemoration, said it would not comment on individual cases. It added that it drafted a list of guests according to the circumstances of each event.
Meanwhile, the July 1 rally, led by the Civil Human Rights Front, is to begin with a rally at Victoria Park at 2pm today, before the march to the government headquarters in Admiralty starts at 3pm.
But some pro-democracy activists have predicted a lower turnout than last year, when the city was gripped by an intense and public debate over the method for electing the chief executive in 2017.
The organisers put the turnout of last year's rally at 510,000, while police said the number of marchers peaked at 98,600. People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip said the turnout may be the lowest in recent years, given the recent failed reform effort. "People might inevitably need to take a break," he said.