Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has met with a British Member of Parliament in Hong Kong, who was unable to visit the city during the pro-democracy Occupy protests two years ago.

Richard Graham, the visiting Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary China Group of the UK Parliament, was at Government House on Monday to exchange views on issues of mutual concern, a statement released by the government said.

Graham, along with other Conservative Party MPs, cancelled a trip to China in November 2014, as his visa request was denied following a parliamentary debate on the Umbrella Movement demonstrations, the Guardian reported at the time.

occupy central
File photo: HKFP.

The British newspaper reported that the delegation had demanded the Chinese embassy in London grant Graham a visa, or the whole trip would be cancelled.

The South China Morning Post then quoted a source as saying that concerns were raised that the MPs could visit the protests as they were initially flying to Shanghai via Hong Kong.

The protesters urged China to retract a decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on August 31, 2014, whereby Chief Executive candidates must be vetted by a nomination committee before a popular vote.

‘Dilution’ of SAR’s autonomy 

A former diplomat, Graham used the parliamentary debate in October 2014 to voice his support for maintaining Hong Kong’s freedoms.

“The British Government’s commitment on behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, when they signed the joint declaration and made it valid for 50 years after 1997—that is, to 2047—is vital to Hong Kong’s success,” said Graham according to records.

“If we allow any of those freedoms to be curtailed and if we say nothing about any dilution of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, whether deliberate or inadvertent, we risk colluding in Hong Kong’s gradual—not immediate —decline, helping others in Asia who would swiftly take any opportunity at Hong Kong’s expense, and we would not be fulfilling the commitments that John Major, Robin Cook and, most recently, our Prime Minister have re-emphasised in the clearest terms.”

Richard Graham Leung Chun-ying
Richard Graham and Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

In a government statement, Leung was said to have “briefed Mr Graham on the latest political, economic and social developments in Hong Kong.”

“He said he hoped that the two places would strengthen exchanges and co-operation on all fronts,” the statement read.

In an interview with HKFP this year, Graham questioned detained bookseller Lee Bo’s wish to renounce his British citizenship.

“Anyone can renounce their citizenship, but the British government would have to be convinced that this was the case,” Graham said. “[A]s it has not yet had access to Lee Bo, this is questionable at the moment.”

He said that Lee’s assertion that he went back to China on his own accord “sounds rather improbable.”

“The world awaits a proper and plausible explanation. Britain also wants reassurance that 3.4 million British passport holders of different types in Hong Kong are still covered by the freedoms guaranteed under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” he said.

The then British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told HKFP in April that Lee was still a UK citizen and “no action has been taken to terminate or change his status.”

Update on August 23: This article was updated to show Richard Graham’s trip was initially to China, and Hong Kong was a transit stop.

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.