Pro-Beijing lawmaker Paul Tse has said he did not wish to sign a petition against pro-independence slogans at universities, but a member of his camp misunderstood and added his endorsement.

39 pro-Beijing legislators petitioned Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung this week demanding that the government take action against the appearance of pro-independence banners on university campuses across Hong Kong. The 39 included all pro-Beijing lawmakers except the legislature’s president Andrew Leung, who remains neutral.

Tse said Gary Chan, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, asked him if he wanted to sign the petition, and he replied in English via message: “I’ll pass.”

Paul Tse
Paul Tse. Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Tse said he was at a concert at that time, and thus he only gave a short response.

Chan replied “thank you” and the discussion ended, until Tse discovered his name was on the petition.

“[I] clearly said I don’t want to join, why was my name on it?” Tse said on a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday.

He said there was a misunderstanding after speaking to Chan: “I thought it was the most simple way to express [refusal], I did not expect he would misunderstand me.”

Gary Chan Hak-kan
Gary Chan Hak-kan. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Asked how Chan explained the misunderstanding, Tse said: “I am not sure if he explained… basically he thought I supported [the petition].”

Tse said he believed members of the public had a range of opinions on the pro-independence slogans and there was no need for him to express his.

“The golden hour to express opinion had passed. There are so many opinions in society, there is no need to add fuel to the fire – it is better to just let it pass, we have to be especially careful when it concerns the management and freedom of academic institutions,” he said.

Chan’s English skills were ridiculed in 2008 when he was elected as a lawmaker after he told reporters that the pro-Beijing camp would “try our breast,” as opposed to “try our best.”

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.