Lawmakers without permits to enter China have said they have no interest in a Dongjiang River water facility tour, after they were invited by the Hong Kong government to inspect the city’s major water source.

China is now accepting applications for home return permits from pan-democratic legislators following a policy change at the end of last month.

Following that, the Development Bureau invited lawmakers of the Panel on Development to visit the facility in the Guangdong Province between February 19 and 20 next year.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law speaks during a rally in Hong Kong on December 11, 2016, against a crackdown on pro-democracy lawmakers and an electoral system skewed towards Beijing ahead of elections for a new city leader. Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace.

The panel includes 51 members, and among them there are 21 democrats. Of the 21, three do not have a permit.

But Nathan Law Kwun-chung, whose permit was cancelled during the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014, has said he would not go.

“If I cannot express on the mainland my political stance, or the spirit of the Umbrella Movement, for now I don’t see the necessity to apply for a permit,” he said.

He said there are a lot of different ways to communicate with the mainland, and it is not necessary to go to there. If China wishes to repair the relationship, it should first retract its framework set in 2014 limiting Hong Kong’s chief executive election.

James To Kun-sun of the Democracy Party also does not have a permit. He said his party colleague Helena Wong, who focuses on water safety issues, will join the tour.

“I don’t think we need too many people to go so, for now, I don’t have plans to go,” To said. “I won’t apply for a permit because of this tour.”

Leung Kwok-hung. Photo: LSD.

“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, another lawmaker barred from the mainland, is facing a legal challenge from the government concerning his oath of office.

Leung said he would only go on the tour if the government accepted his lawmaker status. Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po was the first to say at the legislature that, even if the government answered their questions, it did not mean it recognised them as lawmakers.

“If I am not a lawmaker, what am I doing going to the mainland? If he says ‘Leung Kwok-hung is a lawmaker,’ then I will consider going,” he said.

Leung added that he has the right to apply for a permit, as stated in the Basic Law.

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.