Leaked WhatsApp messages have revealed pro-establishment politicians’ damage control efforts in the wake of their disastrous walkout from the 18 June electoral reform vote.

In the messages, legislators apologised for the miscommunication and discussed how to deal with the consequences.

Press Conference pro-establishment
Press conference following pro-establishment parties missing the political reform vote. Photo: MM@DBC.HK Youtube.

According to Oriental Daily, the messages originate from the pro-establishment WhatsApp group in the hours immediately following the failed walkout that caused 33 legislators to miss the pivotal Legislative Council vote.

Independent legislators Chan Kin-por and Lam Tai Fai both explained why they were among the eight pro-establishment lawmakers who voted instead of following their colleagues out of the chamber. Chan said: “My brothers and sisters, I’m sorry. Due to the lack of communication, [I] was not sure of the reason for leaving.”

“It was too confusing. All of a sudden someone called for us all to leave, and I was not informed of the reason. At the same time, the president [of the Legislative Council] was pressing us to vote, so I decided to vote,” Lam said.

However, Lam later criticised those legislators who left in an op-ed published days after the vote, branding the strategy a “low-intelligence decision.”

The messages also show that LegCo president and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) advisor Jasper Tsang asked legislators to “solemnly apologise” to the public, “otherwise the incident will not end.” Business and Professionals Alliance (BPA) representative Priscilla Leung Mei-fun agreed with the notion, saying that the legislators should “apologise to the public as soon as possible.”

Notably absent in the messages are Liberal Party legislators, all five of whom remained in the chamber for the vote, as well as the DAB’s Ip Kwok-him and BPA’s Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, who was responsible or initiating the walkout.

The first batch of leaked messages suggested that Jasper Tsang played a significant role in coordinating the pro-establishment camp during the vote, causing many pan-democratic legislators to criticise Tsang’s lack of impartiality.

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.