27 May 2019
Aides would have prepared for a meeting between President Xi Jinping (above) and the pan-democrats if such a meeting was to happen, according to sources. Photo: Bloomberg
Aides would have prepared for a meeting between President Xi Jinping (above) and the pan-democrats if such a meeting was to happen, according to sources. Photo: Bloomberg

President Xi unlikely to meet with pan-democrats during visit

Before President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover, rumors had been rife that there could be a “historic meeting” between the pan-democrats and the paramount leader during his stay.

Intriguingly, the rumors actually originated from another earlier rumor that some “intermediaries” representing Beijing had approached several key members of the Democratic Party about the arrangements for such a meeting.

Rumors also had it that the intermediaries particularly checked out Kwong Chun-yu and Lam Cheuk-ting, the two young Democratic Party lawmakers who have been invited to the official welcome banquet. They wanted to make sure the two wouldn’t stir up any trouble during the dinner such as chanting pro-democracy slogans in front of President Xi.

It is also said that the intermediaries tried to find out the exact content of a petition written by the pan-democrats to the president.

What is even more mind-boggling is that the Democratic Party leadership itself claimed that they had never heard of such a secret meeting between some Beijing intermediaries and their key members until they learned about it from media reports.

However, it didn’t take too long for the story to die down. Both the pro-establishment and the pan-democratic camps had serious doubts about its authenticity.

According to some pro-establishment figures, based on past experience, whenever Beijing leaders wanted to meet with the opposition, the SAR government would make preparations in advance.

For example, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam actually had approached the pan-democrats and checked them out one month in advance before the government finally arranged for the chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Zhang Dejiang, to meet with them during his visit to Hong Kong last year.

A source said if President Xi was really going to meet with the pan-democrats, the government would have prepared for it painstakingly beforehand, and the pro-establishment camp would get wind of that. But so far, the source said has heard nothing about that.

Even the pan-democrats didn’t buy the story. Even if President Xi did intend to meet with them, he would not do that at this sensitive moment due to the recent incident concerning Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Since they have been demanding the release of Liu for years, if President Xi did meet with them during his trip, they would bring up the issue. Given that, they think Beijing wouldn’t be that naive to allow that embarrassing scenario to happen.

They added that it is possible that some intermediaries from the mainland did secretly approach members of the Democratic Party, but what they were trying to do was probably just to test the waters and check them out rather than actually arrange a meeting.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 29

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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