Carrie Lam

Hong Kong’s opposition legislators want more than a free lunch from Carrie Lam

Despite a friendly atmosphere during the chief executive’s lunch with lawmakers, political reconciliation will be a long process, both sides say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 October, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 October, 2017, 2:03pm

Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers said it would take more than a free lunch to mend deep political rifts and called for renewed debate on political reforms after meeting the city’s leader on Monday.

Taking a decidedly different tack than her predecessor, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hosted a lunch meeting with legislators from both sides of the political spectrum at her official residence, the Government House.

The gesture was an apparent attempt to improve the relations between the executive and legislative branches, which have soured over the past few years amid an intense debate on the city’s stalled political reform.

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While lawmakers described the meeting as friendly, both Lam and the nine pan-democrats said the goal of political reconciliation could not be achieved over a single meal.

“It is the responsibility of the chief executive – as the head of the executive branch – to interact with the Legislative Council. The crux would be her attitude,” said Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, who attended the lunch.

“We need to keep on observing whether [the government] would act as if nothing has happened after this lunch or would indeed decide to bring some concrete [policy] changes … before making a fair judgment on this.”

Yeung reiterated the deep-rooted conflicts in the society “could not be swept under the carpet” and called on Lam to restart the political reform debate, which should not be based on the stringent blueprint handed down by the national legislature three years ago.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen echoed Yeung’s statement and said his camp would welcome more dialogue with Lam if her administration is receptive and willing to follow up on their concerns.

Lam told lawmakers that she did not expect the lunch would immediately improve ties between the two branches, but hoped it would be a “good start”.

The nine pan-democrats were among the 48 out of 64 of the city’s legislators who attended the event along with several ministers. The Legco has 70 seats but six members have been disqualified for improper oath-taking.

It also marked a stark contrast to Lam’s predecessor Leung Chun-ying, who often shunned pan-democrats while hosting pro-establishment parties – including hardline anti-Occupy legislators – at his residence.

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Leung only once extended invitations to all lawmakers except Wong Yuk-man and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung in May last year, but was snubbed by the pan-democratic camp.

Starry Lee Wai-king, the chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress for Hong Kong, said lawmakers had a candid exchange with the officials over the lunch, adding it takes two to tango in terms of mending ties.

But opposition People Power party lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen, who boycotted the event, dismissed the lunch as “meaningless”, saying Lam was only out to improve her image.

“It is the officials’ performance in Legco instead of a lunch gathering that determines the executive-legislative relations. How could the split in the society be mended if Lam maintains her arrogant attitude?”