Pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien said on Thursday that he could not possibly refuse phone calls from the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong.

Tien’s remarks were a response to chief executive candidate Carrie Lam, who said that Tien and other lawmakers who received calls campaigning for Lam could have chosen not to answer the phone. It is speculated that the calls were from the Liaison Office.

michael tien
Michael Tien. File Photo: Michael Tien, via Facebook.

“I would tell electors such as Michael Tien and Felix Chung, if you receive such calls and feel uncomfortable, just don’t answer them. Or you can say: Carrie has said she is working hard for the election herself – just let her work hard by herself,” Lam said on Wednesday.

Asked if she will publicly ask the Liaison Office to stop campaigning for her, Lam said: “There is no basis for me to do that.”

‘Unrealistic to refuse’

Tien told Now TV on Thursday that the phone call he had received was not from an official of the Liaison Office, but from “a very influential heavyweight.”

“As a member of China’s National People’s Congress, if the Liaison Office telephones me, maybe I can pretend once that I didn’t have reception, but I can’t possibly refuse to pick up the phone if they call me again and again,” Tien added.

“Imagine for other pro-establishment Election Committee members… If officials of the Liaison Office really did call them as rumour has it, it is unrealistic to say that you could have refused the call.”

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

See also: Carrie Lam should file complaint over Beijing’s efforts to campaign for her, IT lawmaker says

Last month, Tien complained that the “invisible hand” behind Hong Kong’s leadership race had become increasingly visible.

“I expected that [Beijing] would say the nomination and election this time around was open, and that candidates were allowed to freely campaign for support. If that were the case, I think it would be a big change since the handover,” he said.

On Thursday, IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok called on Lam to file a complaint to prevent the unidentified callers from campaigning for her.

He said if he was in Lam’s position, he would complain to the Electoral Affairs Commission and publicly ask those callers to cease their activities. “I think this is a viewpoint, or part of common sense, that should be shared by anyone who has run in an election on any level,” he said.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.