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Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Beijing liaison office chief Wang Zhimin expected at Hong Kong Legco meeting next month

Rare visit set for April 23, as pro-democracy lawmakers urge official to not use occasion to lecture Hongkongers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 7:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2018, 7:46am

Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong is expected to attend a luncheon in the city’s Legislative Council complex with lawmakers next month – for the first time in five years – with pan-democrats stopping short of a full boycott.

But pro-democracy lawmakers have urged Wang Zhimin, the director of Beijing’s liaison office in the city, not to take advantage of the platform to lecture Hongkongers.

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen on Wednesday said the lunch with Wang – whom he invited – would take place on April 23.

“It would be a courtesy meeting ... and I hope [the lawmakers]would take the opportunity to communicate more with Wang” said Leung, as he called on lawmakers to attend.

Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said his party had yet to discuss over the invitation, but they would likely send a few representatives to the lunch instead of showing a full attendance.

“We neither fully boycott the lunch nor do we fully embrace it,” said Wan. “We have reservation over some remarks made by Wang before and we do not want to offer public a wrong impression.”

Over the past years, the Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has been slammed for its increasing intervention in the city’s internal affairs – such as lobbying lawmakers for their support over unpopular bills – which the central government should have no role under the “one country, two systems” guiding principle.

Wang, who succeeded Zhang Xiaoming to be the new liaison chief last September, had once drawn ire from the pan-democrats by suggesting the Hong Kong administration and his office should “walk together more”.

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Wan said the luncheon might not be the best platform for them to express their views to Wang, but their attendance could send a signal to society that they are willing to resolve political conflicts through rational communication within the framework of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Accountancy lawmaker Kenneth Leung, of the Professionals Guild which comprises of six pro-democracy lawmakers, said he saw no reason why they should skip the occasion.

But he hoped Wang would not make use of the platform to “lecture Hongkongers”.

“He and the liaison office should not meddle in the city’s affairs and that is all I want to tell him,” he said.

Zhang – now the director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office – has made his unprecedented visit to Legco in 2013 months after he assumed his post in the liaison office.

But in his speech which was described as “cordial on the surface”, Zhang used a gift – a sieve given by pan-democrat Frederick Fung Kin-kee – as a metaphor to illustrate the advantages of a screening process in elections.

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“It was our ancestors’ wisdom that invented the sieve. Otherwise how can we sift fine grains from coarse grains? We cannot simply deny that a sieve has its function,” he then said.

The city back then was debating the political reform to achieve universal suffrage by 2017, with the pro-establishment bloc backing a vetting mechanism that would effectively screen out chief executive candidates deemed unacceptable to Beijing.

Zhang also took a tough line after the lunch as he hit out at the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign – which fully unfolded a year later.