The government announced that it received a notification from Beijing about the lifting of mainland entry restrictions for some lawmakers and others in Hong Kong.
With the eased rules, opposition figures who were previously barred from entering China can now apply for travel permits, it suggested, adding that the new arrangement is with immediate effect.
The government statement, issued at 8 pm on Wednesday, didn’t specifically mention who the beneficiaries are, but it was clear that it was aimed at lawmakers and activists who had faced entry bans earlier for actively pushing for democracy in Hong Kong.
The announcement came four hours after Robert Chow Yung, head of the pro-Beijing Silent Majority for Hong Kong, informed media about the policy change after leading a delegation to Beijing and holding a meeting with Wang Guangya, director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Office.
Chow told media at 4pm on Wednesday after a one-hour meeting with Wang that the mainland has agreed to allow Hong Kong “dissidents” to renew their travel documents and enter the mainland.
The policy change followed a recommendation from Zhang Dejiang, the top central government official responsible for Hong Kong, to lift a previous ban, according to Chow.
It was, however, not clear, if the eased rules will apply to both sitting and former lawmakers from the opposition camp.
The entry ban has been lifted to facilitate exchanges with the mainland, which can help Hong Kong people gain more understanding of the motherland, Chow quoted Wang as saying.
The door is always open for patriotic Hongkongers, the mainland official is said to have declared during the meeting.
Chow said he understands from Wang’s words that people advocating Hong Kong independence, and those deemed to be criminals, could still be banned from entering the mainland although they can try to apply for the permits.
Wang is said to have stressed that Beijing wants Hong Kong people to stick to the “one country, two systems” principle, strictly abide by law and resolve any problems in the right way instead of picking up fights.
Following Beijing’s apparent goodwill gesture, Democratic Party chairwoman and former lawmaker Emily Lau Wai-hing, one of the democrats who had failed to renew their mainland travel permits earlier, said she will discuss with party members as to whether they should apply afresh now.
James To Kun-sun, a sitting lawmaker from the party, said he will not apply for a home return permit just for leisure purposes.
Nathan Law, a newly-elected lawmaker from the pro-democracy party Demosistō, said he doesn’t plan to seek a permit as he fears he would expose himself to danger if he enters the mainland, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said Beijing’s decision to re-issue home return permits to those banned from entry has nothing to do with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
The eased rules stem from a national policy, and not anything else, she said.
Leung had claimed earlier that he has been doing his best to get the entry restrictions lifted.
That prompted some opposition figures, including Lau, to proclaim that Leung was making noises in order to build his case for a second term in office.
[Chinese version 中文版]
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