A lawmaker of the pro-Beijing DAB who walked out during a key vote on political reforms has claimed that a senior central government official demanded that “no vote be left behind”.

Speaking on Commercial Radio on Monday, Tam Yiu-chung said Zhang Dejiang, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, had asked the bloc to vote in unity.

Tam disagreed with public criticism that pro-Beijing legislators appeared to hold themselves accountable to the Chinese Liaison Office rather than their voters. He stressed the importance of maintaining communications with the CLO, because political reform was not an internal affair, since the Beijing government was involved in the decision making process.

The “no vote be left behind” policy could explain why commercial (first) legislator Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung asked for a recess, in order to give his superior Lau Wong-fat time to arrive just minutes before the voting was set to take place. When his request was rejected on procedural grounds, other senior members of the bloc decided that Lau’s vote was important enough to risk leaving the chamber.

But the walkout was not coordinated and a number of lawmakers stayed in and voted for Beijing’s reform package.

DAB legislator Tam Yiu-chung
DAB legislator Tam Yiu-chung.

Shortly after the majority of the pro-Beijing legislators missed the historic vote, at least six were believed to have made contact with the CLO.

Wong Kwok-kin of the Federation of the Trade Unions said he “feared the central government would be angry” at the unanticipated landslide defeat.

Earlier, Civic Party legislator Alan Leong Kah-kit criticised pro-Beijing legislators for reporting to the CLO regarding the electoral fallout.

“If pro-establishment legislators voluntarily hold themselves responsible to the Chinese Liaison Office, this is no different than self-destruction,” said the barrister. “Such constitutional violations, if allowed to continue, will become the norm and have a profound impact [on Hong Kong society].”

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A statement issued by the Civic Party on Friday said the party “strongly condemns” the pro-Beijing legislators for violating the “one country, two systems” policy.

Article 22 of the territory’s mini-constitution stipulates that “no department of the central people’s government” is permitted to “interfere in the affairs which the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region administers on its own in accordance with this Law.”

However, none of the pro-Beijing legislators have defended their close ties with the CLO on legal terms. Key figures such as Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien have argued that constant communications with the CLO were essential.

Tam is the former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. DAB is the largest political party in the territory, with 13 seats in the Legislative Council and 132 seats in the District Councils. Currently, 25 of its members sit on China’s top political advisory body.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.