Amid growing opposition to the government’s proposal to amend the city’s extradition laws, Beijing’s Liaison Office has scheduled a meeting today with Hong Kong delegates of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, and local deputies of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature.
The move came after the office’s director Wang Zhimin and deputy director Chen Dong both expressed support for the extradition bill, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, also met with a Hong Kong delegation earlier this week to express Beijing’s support for the government proposal to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance, calling the revision an urgent matter for Hong Kong.
Martin Liao Cheung-kong, convener of the pro-establishment camp in the Legislative Council, said he received an invitation about a week ago from the Liaison Office to attend the meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday afternoon.
He did not say the purpose of the meeting, but noted that he had been invited to work meetings held by the Liaison Office from time to time.
Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, a standing member of the CPPCC, and lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC, said they would attend the meeting.
Tang said he had no idea if he and other attendees would be asked to support the extradition bill or if more details of the proposed amendments would be discussed during the meeting.
But he stressed that the issue is part of Hong Kong’s internal affairs and, that being the case, there is no such thing as Beijing seeking to speed up the legislation process with a time limit.
Tang also sought to refute allegations from the pro-democracy camp that the administration has been “burying its head in the sand” for refusing to intervene in the current deadlock at Legco over the extradition bill.
The Legco bills committee formed to deliberate on the bill has been stuck in an impasse between the pro-establishment camp and the pan-democratic camp.
Speaking to media in Guangzhou on Thursday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it is not possible for the government to withdraw the amendments bill.
She was in the Guangdong capital to attend the 21st Plenary of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference.
Lam said the purpose of the bill is to remove legal loopholes in the existing mechanism for surrendering fugitive from the law.
She said the proposed amendments would “perfect” the successful implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle.
The chief executive also said it is reasonable for the central authorities to express their stance on the proposal.
Lam called on non-pro-establishment lawmakers, who he accused of obstructing the election of the bills committee’s chairman, to have a change of heart, stop stalling, and heed the House Committee’s directions to allow the bill to be scrutinized.
Pan-democratic lawmakers criticized the central authorities for meddling in the proposed law revision.
Commenting on the meeting called by Liaison Office, Civic party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki accused Beijing of damaging the “one country, two systems” principle as well as “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”.
Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, told a regular press conference on Thursday the fact that both the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and the Liaison Office have expressed their support for the bill not only failed to ease concerns in Hong Kong but also proved that there are real worries among Hong Kong people.
It is obvious that Beijing is harboring ulterior motives, Chiu said.
Meanwhile, the administration has reportedly decided to ask that the proposed amendments be taken straight to the full council as a way to end the current impasse between two rival camps in the Legco, reports said.
The government will make a request to Legco’s House Committee to bypass the bills committee and resume the second reading in full council, according to reports.
However, Starry Lee Wai-king, who chairs the House Committee, said she has not officially received any notice from the government regarding the matter.
The House Committee met on Friday afternoon to discuss a request from pro-establishment lawmaker Abraham Shek Lai-him, who replaced Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun through a vote last Monday to preside over the bills committee.
Shek wrote to Lee earlier this week to seek her directions.
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