Veteran pro-Beijing figure Maria Tam Wai-chu has resigned from her honorary position at a pro-Beijing foundation after intimate photos emerged of two members at a karaoke club with unidentified women. The members were visiting Beijing as part of a trip related to the Belt and Road Initiative.

Consultant Damien Shea Ying-fai – a solicitor – and associate member Raymond Yung Kai-man Two Foundation also withdrew their membership from the the China-Australia Legal Exchange after Tam quit.

Maria Tam Wai-chu. Photo: GovHK.

According to a Ming Pao report on Monday night, the pair visited karaoke clubs for three consecutive nights during their spare time in Beijing last week. They were part of a 37-member group of mostly lawyers participating in an official One Belt and One Road Beijing Tour.

‘Social activities’ 

A Ming Pao reporter approached Shea near his office on Monday morning. After initially refusing to answer questions about the photos, Shea claimed that the events at the karaoke club were social activities for lawyers and had nothing to do with the visit.

Yung also told Ming Pao that the social activities were unrelated related to the visit, saying that the photos were nothing special as people danced with each other and took close cheek-to-cheek photos after drinking alcohol.

He added that they were both brought there by local lawyers and his acquaintances at the Renmin University, with Beijing police present. The women were dancers who left after performing for 15 minutes and receiving tips.

Both Shea and Yung are honorary presidents of the Hong Kong section of the International Police Association. Shea is also a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member of the Chao’an district in Guangdong.

Damien Shea Ying-fai and Raymond Yung Kai-man at the Beijing tour. Photo: Facebook.

Soon after reports emerged online, the foundation announced the three resignations in separate statements.

“We wish her well in her future endeavours and are very grateful of her contribution towards the Foundation in the past,” read the one for Tam, while the two for Shea and Yung simply wished them well in their future endeavours.

The recent tour was widely reported as the group met with Beijing’s Basic Law Committee vice-chairman Zhang Rongshun. The foundation’s Executive Council Chairman Lawrence Ma Yan-kwok – a pro-Beijing barrister – quoted Zhang as saying that the Central Government would be able to handle the Hong Kong independence movement with “guns and cannons” if necessary.

‘Personal behaviour’

Ma told Ming Pao that members of the group were free to do as they wished. As long as the activities were legal, the foundation would not intervene and members would take responsibility for their own actions.

In response to the report, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said on Tuesday morning: “Every person, no matter if they are in Hong Kong or anywhere else, needs to watch their personal behaviour.”

The group visit Beijing on the Belt and Road Initiative. Photo: China Australia Legal Exchange Foundation

He also reiterated the importance of the Belt and Road Initiative as mentioned by state leader Zhang Dejiang and in his policy address, without clarifying as to whether the incident had hurt the image of the initiative.

See also: Explainer – One Belt, One Road.

The foundation was established in 2014 to be a mutual legal exchange platform for Hong Kong and Australian Lawyers to better understand the law of mainland China, as well as providing a legal perspective in current affairs issues, as mentioned on its website.

Its senior consultants included lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun – who also joined the visit for one day – and University of Hong Kong law professor and Basic Law Committee member Albert Chen Hung-yee, former Director of Immigration Eric Chan Kwok-ki and retired judge Peter Nguyen.

The One Belt, One Road initiative, announced in 2013, focuses on strengthening China’s cooperation with “silk road” countries stretching from Central Asia to Europe whilst developing a new “maritime silk road”.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.