A lawmaker’s quick reaction has saved a debate over the vindication of China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement from being omitted by the president of the Legislative Council.

The annual non-binding motion debate was raised by Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong this year, which said: “That this Council urges that: the 4 June incident be not forgotten and the 1989 pro-democracy movement be vindicated,” commemorating the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.

Andrew Leung
Andrew Leung. Photo: YouTube/LegCo.

LegCo president Andrew Leung asked Wong to speak about the motion, after DAB party chair Starry Lee chose not to raise an expected opposition motion relating to condemning lawmaker Holden Chow.

At the time, Wong was inside the LegCo chamber, but away from her seat as she was retrieving a “Goddess of Democracy” statue prop from her assistant.

“The honourable Helena Wong is not at her seat – [we] will not handle her motion,” Andrew Leung said.

Wong’s party colleague Lam Cheuk-ting stood up and quickly interrupted Leung before he stated that Wong’s motion will not be heard.

1989 Tiananmen Massacre vigil
Lam Cheuk-ting. Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Lam then asked for a head count of lawmakers – a 15-minute period to allow lawmakers to come back for the meeting. Within seconds the headcount was called, and Wong returned to her seat.

During the headcount, pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung argued that Andrew Leung has not completed his sentence when giving his judgement, as Lam has already stood up and raised a question on procedures.

“Hear the tapes again – you did not finish your sentence,” he said. After around eight minutes, Leung called for a suspension of the meeting.

When the meeting was resumed again, Leung ultimately allowed Wong to raised her motion.

“Normally, when I announce the start of a debate, the person who raised the motion should be at their seat, otherwise the motion will not be handled,” he said. “I just looked at the situation by then – this time I will allow the honourable Wong to continue raising the motion.”

Helena Wong
Helena Wong. Photo: YouTube/LegCo.

DAB lawmaker Gary Chan denied that the pro-Beijing camp was trying to launch a “surprise attack” on Wong by moving on in the agenda.

The motion is raised annually by lawmakers belonging to the Democratic Party or the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.

It was passed in May 1997 before the handover. There was no motion raised in 1998, as the new LegCo was not formed until July that year. Since 1999, the motion has been rejected every year because of opposition or abstention votes from the pro-Beijing camp.

The motion was rejected again on Thursday. Lawmaker Junius Ho was the only lawmaker from the pro-Beijing camp to vote yes.

He said that the Beijing student protesters’ intention was right and their patriotic minds should be appreciated. But he did answer whether he supported vindication of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

Kris Cheng

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.