By Chris Yeung –
China’s top representative in Hong Kong has waded into the intensifying tussle between the government and the pan-democratic opposition in the legislature as time for seeking a green-light of a list of government projects and bills from lawmakers is running short.
Speaking at a Chinese New Year spring reception on Tuesday, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government’s Liaison Office, called on people to “stand up and say no” to people who “capriciously hinder Hong Kong’s development.”
He said Hong Kong should focus on economic development and enhancement of competitiveness. Noting the city was currently debating on a number of important livelihood issues, Zhang said the key to resolving the issues was financial strength, which came from stable and sustainable economic development.
Zhang was clearly referring to the filibustering by pan-democratic lawmakers to block some controversial government plans and bills. They include extra funding for the construction of cross-border high-speed rail link and the copyright amendment bill, dubbed as “Cyber Article 23.”
Zhang, who had kept quiet on the “missing” bookseller Lee Bo case, broke silence on the government-pan-democrats wrestling in the Legislative Council as top officials stepped up their fight-back against the opposition.
At the weekend, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor argued lawmakers were obligated to attend meetings because they received a list of benefits, including monthly pay, honorarium and work expenses.
On Sunday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has warned of serious delay in the scrutiny of dozens of government projects submitted to Legco’s works committee for an approval. He has expressed concern that graduates of engineering, architectural and related studies might find difficulty in looking for jobs after their graduation in summer.
Speaking at a business luncheon on Wednesday, he called on business leaders to speak out for the slippage of approval of works projects at Legco.
The joint efforts by top Chinese and Hong Kong officials to step up lobby for government projects are part of their hardened tactic to counter the pan-democrats as the city’s political scene grew more uncertain and volatile.
Lee Bo case stokes Beijing fears
Amid strained mainland-Hong Kong relations, the controversy over the disappearance of five shareholders and associates of the Causeway Bay Books has added oil to fire. The failure of the two governments to give a convincing account of the saga has stoked fears about the safeguards of freedoms and autonomy under the “one country, two systems” policy.
Such fears have significantly changed public opinion in favour of the pan-democrats in their opposition against the co-location of the high-speed rail link and the project itself and the “Cyber Article 23.”
Instead of bowing to pressure to ditch the co-location plan and shelve the copyright amendment bill, it seems the government has decided to play hardball with the pan-democrats.
Officials have given a clear message to the pro-establishment camp they are determined to push through the bill in the current session and to secure passage of the funding for high-speed rail link before the February deadline.
Holding a comfortable majority of seats in Legco, the government could always twist the arms of the loyalists to get things done in the legislature, but not without cost.
Leung has warned the pan-democrats last year they would have to pay for their vetoing of the political reform blueprint. His call was snubbed by voters in the November District Council elections.
The pro-establishment camp will face the risk of being shunned by voters if they just yes to controversial government plans as Beijing and Leung have dictated without heeding people’s concerns.
Chris Yeung is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.
Photo: Picture taken from the Liaison Office’s website