The Hong Kong government has criticised pro-democracy district councillors for refusing to leave the Central and Western District Office, after they gathered in the office area demanding an official explanation for a meeting cancellation.
In a letter on Tuesday, Central and Western District Officer Susanne Wong told councillors the meeting would be axed as the government had reservations over the aims of a new Constitutional and Security Affairs Committee (CSAC). Wong said the committee’s puposes were not district-level matters. The committee was formed to discuss “policies related to constitutional development, electoral affairs, district coordination, human rights, protection of personal data and press freedom,” as well as last year’s protests.
Wednesday’s agenda was set to include discussions on police law enforcement at a January 19 assembly, as well a plan to to urge the government to improve district council election arrangements and to ask local police to let councillors visit arrested people at detention facilities.
But Wong wrote that the district office secretariat would not provide services or a venue to the scheduled committee and government officials would refrain from attending. Her letter implied the meeting would be unofficial and undocumented.
Demand official explanation
Ahead of the 2:30 pm meeting, several pro-democracy district councillors – including council chair Cheng Lai-king – gathered outside Wong’s office and demanded an official explanation. The group read aloud a joint statement to condemn the district officer, adding that there has been discussion in the past about constitutional affairs, including controversial national security legislation and the now-axed extradition bill.
“Since this session of popularly-elected district councillors has assumed their duties, the government has been oppressive and refused to listen to popular opinions… It is infuriating that they interfered in our meeting with such a dishonourable gesture.”
The pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory in last November’s district council race – the only fully democratic election in the city.
The group gathered at the District Office for several hours as Wong rejected refused to open her office door. At around 8:50 pm, police and security guards escorted her out.
During an InMedia livestream of the deadlock, Central and Western District Office Senior Executive Officer Jiv Mok requested that councillors leave the “private premises.” He also said the department had called the police and that the group were affecting the office’s operations.
The government released a statement on Wednesday evening expressing regret, urging them to focus on district livelihood issues: “Despite the repeated responses and appeal to the members from the staff of the District Office, the members still refused to leave. They have stayed in the District Office for [a] long time, seriously affecting the operation of the District Office,” it read.
When approached by HKFP, District Councillor Fergus Leung denied the group had affected the office’s operations: “We stayed outside Wong’s office throughout the afternoon and gave way to department staff members whenever they walked past…”
“The committee terms of reference cannot be amended without calling a meeting, and the district office barred us from doing so,” Leung added.