Pan-democrats questioned the sincerity of the government in reaching out to the community to resolve the current political crisis after it set strict rules for the open dialogue between Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and the public next week.
The first session of the Community Dialogue will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Aside from the chief executive, her principal officials will also attend the event.
“The session will be an open dialogue platform aimed at reaching out to the public to invite people from all walks of life to express their views to the government, so as to fathom the discontent in society and to look for solutions,” the government said in a notice.
While members of the public are all entitled to participate, there will be a quota of only 150 places. Of this number, only about 50 participants are expected to be allowed to speak in the two-hour event, sources said.
Those interested to participate must accomplish a registration form either online at eform.one.gov.hk/form/had056/en/ or at Home Affairs Enquiry Centres until noon next Monday.
For registration, one must provide the first four letters and digits of their Hong Kong identification card as well as mobile phone number.
“Should the number of registrants exceed the quota, places will be allocated by computer lot drawing,” the government said in the notice, adding that successful applicants will be notified on or before next Tuesday.
Participants must observe a set of rules to “enable smooth conduct of the dialogue”.
“Security staff are authorized to request any person, present at or entering the venue, to undergo security check, including search of their personal belongings and bags,” according to the rules.
Materials, including oversized items, loud hailers/sound amplifiers, umbrellas, defensive equipment (such as mask respirators and helmets), flags, banners, buntings, and plastic, glass or metal containers, as well as bottled or canned drinks, will not be allowed into the venue.
No attendees will be allowed to “disrupt the dialogue, cause nuisance, inconvenience or danger to other parties or use foul languages”, otherwise they may be evicted, the rules said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who has registered to participate in the dialogue, said it is ridiculous for the government to set all these rules, questioning whether the government is really interested in getting the people’s views or simply want to ensure an amicable event.
Hui said he only registered for the session in order to highlight the absurdity of the proceedings.
He promised to give the chief executive a hard time if he is selected to participate in the dialogue, although he said he doubted if the draw would be conducted in a random manner.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong said she has little expectations for the dialogue, noting that the restrictions set would hinder the open and sincere airing of views, and as such, it would lose its focus and authenticity.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chair of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said while face-to-face encounters are a good way for the administration to reach out to the community, the government should also consider online dialogues, which pose no security risks.
Dr. Lam Ching-choi, a non-official Executive Council member, told media that although he does not think a one-time dialogue can solve all problems, communicating with people is definitely better than no any communication at all, adding that he believes the chief executive has already prepared herself for possible mass protests on Thursday.
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