Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan has officially withdrawn his Legco motion that called on the government to launch a public consultation on enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law.
His move was unanimously welcomed by the pro-democracy camp, but, quite intriguingly, didn’t get much response from the pro-Beijing camp, which had remained steadfast over the years in its support of the controversial legislation proposal that deals with the issue of national security.
In the meantime, James Tien Pei-chun, the honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, lamented during an online media interview that some members of the pro-establishment camp were “saying one thing but doing quite another” over the Article 23 issue, and said his party had to pull the motion because there simply weren’t enough “ayes” for it among the pro-establishment camp.
Tien’s “accusation” was quickly refuted by the leading parties in the pro-establishment camp, which stressed that the Liberal Party had never consulted them, or even notified them, about the motion anytime, right from the start until its final withdrawal Thursday.
Apart from denying that they weren’t being supportive enough, a few pro-establishment lawmakers made this disclosure: they had been informed by the Beijing Liaison Office prior last week that the Liberal Party was going to withdraw the motion, and were told to “pull their punches” over the Liberals’ about-face.
Thee startling revelations suggest that the Liberal Party may have abandoned its motion on the orders of the Liaison Office, rather than, like its chairman Felix Chung claimed, out of the concern that it might further provoke Washington amid the ongoing Sino-US trade war.
Nevertheless, such allegation has been vehemently denied by leaders of the Liberal Party, who insisted that they hadn’t been influenced by anyone whatsoever on this issue.
They insisted that they decided to pull the motion only because they had learnt during the past weekend that many local business owners were deeply concerned about a recent report published by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which recommends the US government review its current treatment of Hong Kong and the mainland as separate customs areas.
Now, there is no way we can prove which side is telling the truth.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin, who represents the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, revealed that the pro-establishment camp had never studied the Liberal Party’s motion at all.
“If James Tien really did care so much about whether the other parties in the camp would support the motion or not, he should have put up the matter for discussion,” he said.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 23
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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