“It is more dangerous for pro-democracy lawmakers to go back to China than for them not to go back,” Nathan Law Kwun-chung of Demosistō said on Wednesday, “even if I was given the home return permit, I will not go back.”

His comments came as reports emerged that the central government will likely reissue home return permits in the coming days to pro-democracy lawmakers without them. The move was confirmed by the government on Wednesday evening.

Nathan Law. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“[E]ntry restrictions imposed on certain Legislative Council members and other persons on entering the Mainland of China have been relaxed from today (November 30) onwards,” a government statement said.

According to Ming Pao, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang said that – after meeting with anti-independence activist Robert Chow and the “Silent Majority” group on Tuesday – he hoped to communicate with anyone who supports and upholds the Basic Law and One Country Two Systems, and that he welcomed them to visit the mainland.

Law, whose permit was revoked during the Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protest in 2014, went on to say that “if they [Beijing] truly wanted to communicate with us, they should not have revoked our home return permits in the first place.” He said that the central government should display more sincerity if they really wanted to rectify wrongdoing.

Leung Yiu-chung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“I do not see the need to apply [for the permit],” said Leung Yiu-chung of the pro-democracy Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre. He is among those without a permit to visit China. Leung said that central government’s decision to reissue the permits at this particular time was likely to be politically motivated than out of goodwill. Even without the permit, Leung said that they could still communicate with Beijing.

Others without the permit include “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, and James To Kun-sun from the Democratic Party. Former pro-democracy lawmakers and members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China also had their permits revoked.

Divide and conquer

Leung also said that Beijing’s gesture was an attempt to divide the pro-democracy camp by issuing permits to certain lawmakers while leaving others out.

starry lee legco
Starry Lee. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Starry Lee Wai-king of the pro-Beijing DAB party said that “if pan-democrats can get home return permits and see the country’s development and understand the country for themselves, it would be beneficial to establishing trust and communication [with Beijing] in the future.” However, it would be more difficult for pro-independence lawmakers to apply for a permit, Lee said, as they may not agree with the country’s constitution and could pose a threat to national security.

The pro-independence camp and pan-democrats are often seen as two factions of the pro-democracy camp.

The Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters Wednesday that he had always been an advocate for positive communications between pan-democrats and mainland officials.

stanley leung

Stanley Leung

Stanley is a Media and Communications graduate from Goldsmiths College in London. He takes particular interest in visual journalism, having produced photographic and video work on a number of social and political issues. He has also interned at the current affairs service of RTHK’s TV division.