Ten lawmakers from across the political spectrum held a rare informal lunch on Thursday in an effort to facilitate understanding.
They represented seven parties of various positioning, ranging from pro-democracy and pro-Beijing to business interests and trade unionists. The event was organised by Martin Liao, an independent lawmaker representing the commercial sector and a convenor of the pro-establishment caucus.
Jeffrey Lam of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said the idea came up during a lunch among some pro-Beijing lawmakers around three months ago.
“We didn’t set any agenda for today’s lunch,” he said. “We think that it is a good thing for us to chat with each other.”
Describing the lunch as an “ice breaker,” pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip said: “Communication is always a good thing. I hope this gathering will open the door of dialogue.”
Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai also welcomed more similar events in the future: “It was a first for us, and the atmosphere was good. Maybe we will have more meetings like this where we can exchange our views.”
Without disclosing in detail the content of the meeting, Wu said they discussed the pros and cons of the “different ways of doing things” by their parties. “I believe this will help improve our work relationships and thereby the work environment,” he added.
But Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party asked the public not to read too much into Thursday’s meeting.
“It was just about hearing each other out. It was not about convincing anyone or being convinced. There is no deeper meaning into it other than being a healthy event,” he said.
“Conflicts can only be truly resolved by those who caused them – meaning the Hong Kong government and the ruling power, including Sai Wan [where Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong is located] and Beijing.”
The pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps have expressed an interest in resolving their differences, while Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam pledged to make social unity a priority after taking office.
However, Wu came under fire last month after suggesting that the chief executive should pardon everyone involved in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests – including police convicted or accused of assaulting activists – as a means of reconciliation.
The political parties represented at Thursday’s lunch table included: the pro-democracy Civic Party, the Democratic Party, the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the New People’s Party, the pro-business Liberal Party, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong, and the Federation of Trade Unions.