A lunch gathering of five Democratic Party members and the deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office on Wednesday was not a closed-door meeting, party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said.
Lau did not notify the party’s central committee, other party members and the public about the meeting with Feng Wei until Thursday, causing some to wonder why.
A spokesman for the government said it had been notified before the meeting.
At a press briefing Thursday, Lau admitted that some committee members were not happy about being kept in the dark.
She said it was Feng who wanted to keep the meeting low-profile, as Beijing didn’t want any publicity, Ming Pao Daily reported Friday.
“The meeting would not have happened if we insisted on publicizing it beforehand,” Lau said.
She said the idea for the meeting was raised by former secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-see before the Legislative Council voted on the government’s electoral reform package on June 18.
Lau said Feng did not come to Hong Kong specifically for the meeting but was in the city to take care of other affairs.
Besides Lau, the other members of the Democratic Party at the lunch included vice-chairmen Lo Kin-hei and Andrew Wan Siu-kin, chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai.
It was the first meeting between a central government official and pan-democrats since they defeated Beijing’s framework for the 2017 election for chief executive in the Legco vote.
Some observers interpreted the meeting as an attempt by Beijing to divide the pan-democratic camp.
Lau said she did not know whether it was so but stressed she had made it clear to Beijing that her party is against such a strategy.
She said Feng was told at the meeting that a face-to-face dialogue is necessary and Hong Kong is now facing a serious governance problem.
The Democrats also told him the central government shouldn’t listen only to pro-establishment people, so as to avoid misunderstanding Hong Kong’s situation.
Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a China watcher in Hong Kong, said the meeting was hardly an ice-breaker.
He said while a meeting like this is worthwhile, it remains to be seen whether Beijing truly wants to mend its relationship with the pan-democratic camp or is just trying to divide it before the district council elections in November.
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