The Hong Kong government hasn’t refuted a media report which claimed that British Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire was denied meetings with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam during the UK official’s visit to the city earlier this month, Apple Daily noted Monday.
Without giving a straight explanation, a government spokesman merely said that Hong Kong’s senior officials choose to meet foreign officials from time to time “if circumstances allow”, the paper said.
The comments came when the spokesman was asked to respond to a report carried Sunday by the South China Morning Post that Hong Kong’s top officials snubbed Swire when the latter made a low-profile visit to the city on January 8.
Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and member of the British Conservative Party, is the UK’s top official on Hong Kong and China affairs.
During his visit to the former British colony, the minister is said to have met with several lawmakers and urged those in the pan-democratic camp to accept Beijing’s political reform framework as “it is better than nothing”.
He was also planning to discuss political reform with the city’s top two leaders, only to be refused appointments.
The UK minister did not respond to an Apple Daily email seeking his comments on the snub by the Hong Kong government.
According to the South China Morning Post, British diplomats expressed outrage and frustration over the snub. It is believed to be the first time since 1997 that London’s top representative on Hong Kong was not able to meet with the city’s most senior officials while visiting, the report said.
At a hearing of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee after his return to the UK, Swire said Beijing may have been concerned that his visit might trigger fresh pro-democracy initiatives in Hong Kong, Apple Daily reported.
Political commentator Ivan Choy, a lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, believes Leung and Lam only followed Beijing’s instructions as Swire had in 2013 written an article supporting the call for universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
Civic Party legislator Chan Ka-lok said Hong Kong leaders’ refusal to meet with Swire will only make others feel that the government does not have a big heart. He warned that Hong Kong officials might face similar treatment when they visit UK in the future.
– Contact us at [email protected]