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Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 08:57

Radical opposition factions cause concern

By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong and Shadow Li in Beijing

Political leaders expressed concern over the destructive influence of the radical factions in the opposition camp — after 27 opposition lawmakers renewed their pledge to block any government proposals conforming to a framework laid down by the country’s top legislature last August.

The opposition, which holds just over a third of Legislative Council (LegCo) seats, called a press conference on Monday. This was to reaffirm their plans to vote down any electoral reform package based on the Aug 31 decision of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Less than a day after the announcement, Hong Kong media outlets cited government sources as saying senior central government officials would cancel their visit to Hong Kong, originally planned for April. This had been for events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the Basic Law.

Civic Party’s Ronny Tong Ka-wah suggested the central government officials’ April visit could set the stage for resuming dialogue with the opposition. He said on Tuesday the opposition believed their statement would remind NPC deputies to vote against the Standing Committee’s work report.

“They never have a grasp of Beijing’s mindset,” Tong commented, adding that his allies had shown little concern about the prospects for dialogue. “The ‘pan-democrats’ have all along seen the constitutional reform as a war of words. So what if you win? Do you achieve universal suffrage?”

Tong signed the statement to “avoid further speculation”. But he admitted that not only did he not fully agree with it, he also questioned its purpose.

The government is at least four votes short of securing the passage of the package. But radical opposition members have promised to challenge anyone who changes sides.

Hong Kong delegates attending the two sessions in the capital were largely disappointed by this tough statement. They showed some sympathy for moderate opposition members.

“The moderates are hijacked by the radicals in the ‘pan-democrat’ camp,” said Chan Wing-kee, a Standing Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Chan said he hoped that “after some time”, opposition members could talk to Beijing officials individually.

CPPCC National Committee member Lau Siu-kai predicted a decisive change might only occur at the last minute. But he was pessimistic about the outcome of small-group, closed-door meetings between Beijing and the opposition. This is because the absence of effective leadership in the opposition had reduced trust between its members.

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