Main­land travel per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions al­lowed for HK op­po­si­tion mem­bers

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By LUIS LIU in Hong Kong luis­liu@chi­nadai­

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment will ac­cept main­land travel per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions by mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion camp in Hong Kong, the SAR gov­ern­ment an­nounced in a press re­lease Wed­nes­day night.

Start­ing from Wed­nes­day, the pre­vi­ous en­try re­stric­tions to the main­land placed on some Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil mem­bers and other peo­ple would be re­laxed, the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment said.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s good-will ges­ture aims to fos­ter more con­struc­tive en­gage­ment with mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion camp who pre­vi­ously had been de­nied per­mits for var­i­ous rea­sons to en­ter the main­land.

If granted per­mits to visit the main­land, they can wit­ness for them­selves the coun­try’s dra­matic de­vel­op­ment and trans­for­ma­tion. This is in­tended to en­hance mu­tual com­mu­ni­ca­tion and also help the cen­tral gov­ern­ment be­come more aware of Hong Kong’s sit­u­a­tion and its peo­ple’s con­cerns, ex­plained Robert Chow Yung, con­vener of lo­cal po­lit­i­cal con­cern group Silent Ma­jor­ity for Hong Kong.

He was quot­ing the head of Bei­jing’s top Hong Kong af­fairs au­thor­ity on Wed­nes­day.

Chow made the re­marks af­ter a del­e­ga­tion he led met with Di­rec­tor of the Hong Kong and Ma­cao Af­fairs Of­fice of the State Coun­cil, Wang Guangya, on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon in Bei­jing.

The re­lax­ation on ear­lier re­stric­tions ap­plies to all mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion camp, as long as they sup­port the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” prin­ci­ple and the Ba­sic Law, Chow quoted Wang as say­ing.

This is in line with what the cen­tral gov­ern­ment leader in charge of Hong Kong af­fairs, Zhang De­jiang, told Chow and his del­e­ga­tion on Tues­day. Zhang, chair­man of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPCSC), said Bei­jing hopes to com­mu­ni­cate with any per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion in Hong Kong who sup­ports “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems”, up­holds the Ba­sic Law, and loves the coun­try and the Chi­nese na­tion.

Zhang also stressed that Bei­jing wel­comes them to come to the main­land and see the changes and de­vel­op­ments oc­cur­ring there.

Chi­nese na­tion­als among Hong Kong’s per­ma­nent res­i­dents need a travel per­mit, known as the Home Re­turn Per­mit, is­sued by main­land au­thor­i­ties to en­ter the main­land.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment hopes to com­mu­ni­cate with any per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion in Hong Kong who sup­ports ‘One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems’, up­holds the Ba­sic Law, and loves the coun­try and the Chi­nese na­tion.” Zhang De­jiang, chair­man of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress

Some for­mer op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers with­out such per­mits were granted tem­po­rary travel doc­u­ments to go to the main­land for meet­ings or other of­fi­cial busi­ness in their ca­pac­i­ties as law­mak­ers in the past.

Chow urged the op­po­si­tion camp to re­act pos­i­tively to such a well-mean­ing ges­ture from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment. He said they should take full ad­van­tage of the pol­icy re­lax­ation.

Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in the city have wel­comed the move. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Le­ung Chun­y­ing said he hoped it will help im­prove re­la­tions be­tween the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and “pan­democrats” in Hong Kong.

Le­ung said he had al­ways worked hard to fa­cil­i­tate such com­mu­ni­ca­tion. He added that the new ar­range­ment is good for both the de­vel­op­ment of Hong Kong and the coun­try.

Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil Pres­i­dent An­drew Le­ung Kwan-yuen hailed the move on Wed­nes­day. He said he ex­pects more law­mak­ers to go to the main­land to gain first-hand knowl­edge about the na­tion’s lat­est de­vel­op­ments and to meet cen­tral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, Hong Kong’s sole rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the NPCSC, said the pol­icy re­lax­ation is a clear ges­ture by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment to “pan-democrats” that as long as they don’t ad­vo­cate sep­a­ratism, there is room for com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween them and Bei­jing.

Reg­u­lar talks ex­pected be­tween the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and mem­bers of Hong Kong’s op­po­si­tion camp may boost sup­port and re­duce ten­sion in the city, en­abling it to fully im­ple­ment the “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy, lo­cal po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts said.

The move on Wed­nes­day to re­lax main­land travel per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion by mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion camp in Hong Kong, who had been de­nied such per­mits be­fore, also showed that the cen­tral gov­ern­ment had stayed true to a very se­ri­ous com­mit­ment to reg­u­lar­ize com­mu­ni­ca­tions with “pan-democrats”, the an­a­lysts noted.

Vice-pres­i­dent of Bei­jing’s top think tank on Hong Kong af­fairs — Chi­nese As­so­ci­a­tion of Hong Kong and Ma­cao Stud­ies — Lau Siu-kai said Bei­jing made a clear ges­ture of good­will to­ward Hong Kong “pan-democrats”.

“By the pol­icy re­lax­ation, Bei­jing ap­par­ently wants to im­prove the re­la­tion­ship and in­clude them in dis­cus­sions of Hong Kong’s gov­er­nance as long as they sup­port the ‘ One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems’ pol­icy,” Lau said.

It is a clear demon­stra­tion to all Hong Kong peo­ple of Bei­jing’s mag­na­nim­ity and open mind in en­gag­ing peo­ple with dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions.

The new de­vel­op­ment on Wed­nes­day was fore­see­able. Dur­ing a visit to Hong Kong in May by Zhang De­jiang, chair­man of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress (NPCSC) and Bei­jing’s top of­fi­cial on Hong Kong af­fairs, re­sponded pos­i­tively to Hong Kong law­mak­ers’ sug­ges­tions that main­land travel per­mit re­stric­tions was some­thing the cen­tral gov­ern­ment could re­lax.

Lau said he hoped the op­po­si­tion would ap­pre­ci­ate the sin­cer­ity of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and seek more op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet Bei­jing of­fi­cials reg­u­larly.

The tim­ing in­di­cates the cen­tral gov­ern­ment has greater con­fi­dence that mem­bers of the op­po­si­tion would soften or change some views to­ward the main­land af­ter they visit there.

“Even­tu­ally they may ad­just their ap­proach and stop con­fronta­tion with Bei­jing au­thor­i­ties,” Lau pre­dicted.

Vet­eran com­men­ta­tor Song Sio-chong said the re­lax­ation of en­try per­mit ap­pli­ca­tions could be seen as draw­ing a line be­tween sep­a­ratists and those who sup­port “One Coun­try, Two Sys­tems” pol­icy and up­hold the Ba­sic Law.

Stand­ing firm against sep­a­ratism and unit­ing as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble in the city means a wider sup­port base for “Hong Kong peo­ple ad­min­is­ter­ing Hong Kong” prin­ci­ple.

Lo­cal po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Lau Yui-siu called for more positive in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the city’s op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers.

If Hong Kong so­ci­ety does not re­spond pos­i­tively to Bei­jing, and if the op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers refuse to re­turn the good­will, things may de­te­ri­o­rate, Lau said.

To make the in­ter­ac­tion sta­ble and build up mu­tual trust, Lau said com­mu­ni­ca­tion could be de­vel­oped in a sys­tem­atic way. In­stead of a meet­ing with the SAR’s op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers in Bei­jing, the cap­i­tal city, it would be bet­ter to first ar­range meet­ings else­where on the main­land.

Sim­i­larly, they could meet via non-of­fi­cial ac­tiv­i­ties, in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity, and dis­cuss eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment is­sues first, be­fore they meet of­fi­cially and dis­cuss dif­fi­cult po­lit­i­cal is­sues, Lau sug­gested.

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