A Legislative Council meeting next week is to be cut short for three hours as Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang visits Hong Kong.
Most lawmakers have been invited to a dinner with Zhang at 7pm next Wednesday. The regular LegCo meeting usually takes place until 8pm. Ten lawmakers have also been invited to a cocktail event before the dinner.
LegCo president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing deemed the dinner an official and important event but not a private event, as he said “the attendance of lawmakers marks the constitutional status of the Legislative Council in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.
“We should make proper arrangements regarding the schedule of the meeting, so that lawmakers can attend this important event,” he said.
Tsang decided the meeting would be suspended at 5pm for lawmakers to have enough time to attend the events. The meeting will be resumed as normal at 9am next Thursday.
Tsang said that it was rare that a Chinese state leader visited the city.
“Whether it is setting a precedent should not be something that we should consider,” he said. “We are talking about suspension of a meeting, losing a few hours of meeting time – I think it is worthwhile for lawmakers to attend such important event.”
Zhang is the Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong affairs.
Some pan-democratic lawmakers were planning to boycott the dinner as they deemed the registration process “disrespectful”. Lawmakers Raymond Wong Yuk-man and Leung Kwok-hung were not invited to the dinner, nor to the cocktail event.
Pro-democracy People Power party lawmaker Ray Chan Chi-chuen, who will not attend the event, heard about Tsang’s plan before it was announced.
“Jasper Tsang had said LegCo’s schedule was tight, meeting time has to be spent well as it is running out. But he decided to cut short the meeting for a few hours for a social dinner, it is self-contradictory,” Chan said on Tuesday.
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong told RTHK the arrangement was appropriate. He said that it was Zhang’s first visit to Hong Kong, and it showed care and understanding for Hong Kong, and it was a valuable opportunity.
Ming Pao reported on Thursday that 5,000 police officers will be mobilised during Zhang’s three-day visit. The newspaper also learnt that police commanders on the scene will have the option to enlarge road blocks at any time if “embarrassing banners and slogans” are seen near Zhang.
The deployment is set to be Hong Kong’s biggest security operation for a visiting state leader.