Hong Kong Democrats' first trip to China since 1989

31 August, 2005

LegCo Democratic Party members are granted visas for the first time since the Tiananmen massacre. Party chairman says that despite differing opinions, the trip is a "huge breakthrough".

A group of pro-democracy lawmakers will visit China next month for the first time since 1989. In a tour scheduled for September 25 and 26 and organised by Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, the legislators will meet senior officials from the Pearl River Delta's provinces of Guanzhou, Shenzhen, Zhongshan and Dongguan.

Tsang invited all 60 Legislative Council (LegCo) members to come, urging them though 'not to take radical action'. He said the visit was designed to 'improve mutual communication and cross-border economic development'.

Speaking before Hong Kong's LegCo, the Chief Executive described the ice-breaking trip as the 'start of a thousand-mile-long journey'. He also said that "while the [main] topic is to understand developments in the Pearl River Delta, legislators can air their views freely."

Democrats hailed the trip as a 'huge breakthrough'¡Xup to now they had been denied visas because of their harsh criticism of the communist regime for its role in the Tiananmen massacre. Some of them said they would not retreat from their calls for universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

Democratic Party chairman Lee Wing-tat said that members of his party would not stage any protests and urged his allies to do the same.

"The ice-breaking visit has great meaning as a breakthrough between the central government and elected representatives of Hong Kong," he said.

"We hope our colleagues will maintain the necessary etiquette although some of our views are different from those of China.¡¨

Veteran radical Democrat "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung said he would accept the invitation but did not promise not to protest.

"I will continue to air my views on what is right and what is wrong and I will not be content to take a cosmetic role by attending cocktail parties. I will exercise my duty as a lawmaker but it is too early to say what I might do,¡¨ he said.

Some political observers see the trip as a bid to muster support for the government's proposals on political reform.