20 January 2019
Richard Tsoi wears a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Refusing to Forget" after he was allowed to travel to Guangzhou over the weekend. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua
Richard Tsoi wears a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Refusing to Forget" after he was allowed to travel to Guangzhou over the weekend. Photos: HKEJ, Xinhua

Richard Tsoi travels to China as Beijing restores travel permit

Veteran democracy campaigner Richard Tsoi Yiu-Cheong has had his mainland travel permit get restored, allowing him to cross the border over the weekend and make a trip to Guangzhou.

Tsoi, who is vice chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, was re-issued his travel permit — which is commonly known as Home Return Permit — on Saturday after it was confiscated 23 years ago by mainland border control officials.

The move came after China announced recently that it was easing travel restrictions on some Hong Kong residents, a decision seen as extending an olive branch to in Hong Kong opposition groups.

Following Tsoi’s successful application, he crossed the border into Shenzhen on Saturday and traveled to Guangzhou, where he spent the night before returning to Hong Kong on Sunday.

He is believed to be the first barred activist to travel to China since the restrictions were lifted.

Tsoi said he was overwhelmed by emotions as he made it through the Lo Wu border with his new permit, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The activist stressed that it is every Hong Kong citizen’s right to have a permit to travel to mainland China.

Explaining how he got his document, Tsoi said that he learnt on Nov. 29 that he can regain his home return permit, and that he submitted an application the next day.

He said he finally got his document last Saturday through China Travel Services (H.K.) Ltd.

After getting the permit, Tsoi immediately went to Guangzhou the same day to visit a friend, and spent the night in the Chinese city.

Tsoi said he informed Albert Ho Chun-yan, chairman of the Alliance, about his trip after returning to Hong Kong on Sunday.

Tsoi didn’t face any problems on his weekend trip, but he said he will think twice before visiting any dissidents in China.

If Hong Kong democracy activists meet up with mainland dissidents, it could put the latter at risk from Chinese security authorities, he said, adding that he will do only “what is necessary”.

Tsoi’s original permit was confiscated after he was arrested in 1993 when he accompanied dissident Han Dongfang to Guangzhou.

Independent political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu believes Beijing has lifted the travel curbs as it wants to ease tensions between China and opposition groups in Hong Kong.

Lau told Apple Daily that the central government may have sought to test the waters with Tsoi, and that Beijing may take more time to observe and decide if other democrats should be given the same treatment.

Last month, Robert Chow Yung, head of the pro-Beijing group Silent Majority for Hong Kong, told reporters in Beijing about the lifting of mainland entry restrictions for some lawmakers and others in Hong Kong.

The announcement came after a delegation comprising Chow met with Wang Guangya, director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Office.

Chow informed the media about the eased travel rules four hours before an official announcement came from the Hong Kong government.

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