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Thursday, December 1, 2016, 00:47

Travel permit applications allowed for opposition members

By Luis Liu

HONG KONG - The central government will accept mainland travel permit applications by members of the opposition camp in Hong Kong, the SAR government announced in a press release Wednesday night.

Starting from Wednesday, the previous entry restrictions to the mainland placed on some Legislative Council members and other people would be relaxed, the Hong Kong government said.

The central government’s good-will gesture aims to foster more constructive engagement with members of the opposition camp who previously had been denied permits for various reasons to enter the mainland.

If granted permits to visit the mainland, they can witness for themselves the country’s dramatic development and transformation. This is intended to enhance mutual communication and also help the central government become more aware of Hong Kong’s situation and its people’s concerns, explained Robert Chow Yung, convener of local political concern group Silent Majority for Hong Kong.

He was quoting the head of Beijing’s top Hong Kong affairs authority on Wednesday.

Chow made the remarks after a delegation he led met with Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, Wang Guangya, on Wednesday afternoon in Beijing.

The relaxation on earlier restrictions applies to all members of the opposition camp, as long as they support the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and the Basic Law, Chow quoted Wang as saying.

This is in line with what the central government leader in charge of Hong Kong affairs, Zhang Dejiang, told Chow and his delegation on Tuesday. Zhang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC), said Beijing hopes to communicate with any person or organization in Hong Kong who supports “One Country, Two Systems”, upholds the Basic Law, and loves the country and the Chinese nation.

Zhang also stressed that Beijing welcomes them to come to the mainland and see the changes and developments occurring there.

Chinese nationals among Hong Kong’s permanent residents need a travel permit, known as the Home Return Permit, issued by mainland authorities to enter the mainland.

Some former opposition lawmakers without such permits were granted temporary travel documents to go to the mainland for meetings or other official business in their capacities as lawmakers in the past.

Chow urged the opposition camp to react positively to such a well-meaning gesture from the central government. He said they should take full advantage of the policy relaxation.

Political leaders in the city have welcomed the move. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he hoped it will help improve relations between the central government and “pan-democrats” in Hong Kong.

Leung said he had always worked hard to facilitate such communication. He added that the new arrangement is good for both the development of Hong Kong and the country.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen hailed the move on Wednesday. He said he expects more lawmakers to go to the mainland to gain first-hand knowledge about the nation’s latest developments and to meet central government officials.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the NPCSC, said the policy relaxation is a clear gesture by the central government to “pan-democrats” that as long as they don’t advocate separatism, there is room for communication between them and Beijing.

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