The Wen Wei Po editorial cites the CE's invitation for all legislators to tour Guangdong as a breakthrough.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang announced on Tuesday that he had received support from the central government to invite all members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) to visit Guangdong on a two-day study tour on September 25 and 26. The invitation to all LegCo members to visit the mainland is a historic breakthrough, which not only shows the central government is handling Hong Kong-related issues in a more open, tolerant and pragmatic manner, but also is a positive answer to the mainstream desire of Hong Kong society for better communications with their mainland counterparts and for greater harmony. On the other hand, choosing Guangdong as the first destination of such tours illustrates the fact that co-operative relations between the neighbouring province and Hong Kong SAR are very important and growing closer by the day.
Inviting all LegCo members to visit Guangdong is not something that happened out of the blue. The central government has been increasing its contact with LegCo members from the "pro-democracy camp" for quite some time now.
Last year, the central government invited Hong Kong dignitaries from all walks of life, including some LegCo members belonging to the "pro-democracy camp", to Beijing to take part in the celebration of the 55th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
The National People's Congress last year and earlier this year twice invited some of the LegCo members from the "pro-democracy camp" to Shenzhen for discussions about interpretations of the Basic Law provisions.
The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong also invited some "pro-democracy" personalities to its Spring Festival receptions in recent years.
On the occasion of the 77th anniversary of the PLA last August and this year's May 1 International Labour Day, the PLA garrison in Hong Kong also invited all members of LegCo to their barracks, including those from the "pro-democracy camp."
The latest invitation to all LegCo members to visit Guangdong is a logical step toward better communications between the central government and various sectors in Hong Kong.
Choosing Guangdong instead of the capital city of Beijing as the destination of the first ever all-LegCo tour of the mainland should not be seen simply as contacts on a local level. It is because, first of all, this kind of arrangement must have permission from the central government, meaning the visit is a decision of the country's top leaders. Besides, the person who will receive the LegCo members is the secretary of the Guangdong provincial committee of the Communist Party of China as well as a member of the Politburo of the CPC, and hence a Party and State leader. Therefore, it is not without reason for many to see this all-LegCo visit to Guangdong as a significant breakthrough in the central government's efforts to enhance ties with LegCo. As CE Donald Tsang put it the other day, crossing into next-door Guangdong may be just a small step, but it could be a big leap in forging relations based on mutual trust and reconciliation.
On July 1 this year, some 30,000 people took part in the parade to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the SAR, while only about 10,000 people joined the protest organized by the "pro-democracy camp". This contrasting change of political affinity says plenty about the mainstream desire in Hong Kong for stability, harmony, and development. Hong Kong residents have shown widespread support for enhancing social harmony and unity since Tsang was elected the new CE, giving him an opportunity to implement his administrative strategy. In his political platform during the CE elections, he listed, if he won, two top priorities: the improvement of communications between the central government and LegCo, and the enhancement of social harmony in Hong Kong. Now he has delivered on one of the two promises and won appreciation from all walks of life, including those of the "pro-democracy camp".
Apart from the fact that the development of the Pearl River Delta region is very important to the Hong Kong economy, the planned visit by all LegCo members to Guangdong is also a stab at some pragmatic ends. The so-called ice-breaking visit will attempt to make some tangible contributions to the construction of cross-border facilities and economic and trade co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong. This kind of pragmatic interaction is conducive to increasing mutual understanding and mutual trust, and serves as a good beginning for strengthening relations between the central government and Hong Kong's LegCo.
To those LegCo members from the "pro-democracy camp" who are used to confrontation with Beijing, how they respond to the goodwill gesture by the central government will no doubt be a critical test of their political wisdom. It is possible that a few radical members of LegCo will use the opportunity to make trouble. But what is more worth watching closely is whether some of the "pro-democracy" members of LegCo will abandon their confrontational mentality and try to forge relations of positive interaction with the central government.
The advancement along the path paved by the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, including the reform and development of Hong Kong's political setup, depends on the mutual trust and co-operation between the mainland and Hong Kong as well as between the SAR and the central government.
We sincerely hope all members of LegCo will follow the popular wish of taking the opportunity provided by the upcoming visit to forge mutual trust with the central government, enhance social harmony, and push forward Hong Kong's development.
(China Daily HK Edition September 2, 2005)