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Reform on agenda as alliance readies for talks with Beijing

Staff reporter

Monday, May 17, 2010

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Representatives of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage will meet soon with senior Beijing officials to discuss political reform, a source said yesterday.

If the meeting is confirmed, it will be the first time since the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown that Democratic Party leaders will have a face-to-face meeting with senior officials from the central government.

The source also said both sides will be allowed to disclose news of the meeting if they see fit.

The Democratic Party and other moderate democrats and academics formed the alliance after declining to take part in the so-called "de- facto referendum." Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and alliance convener Fung Wai- wah have both gone on record as saying they want to continue a dialogue with Beijing.

The alliance had earlier met with National People's Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan Tsu Lai-tai and asked her help to pass to Beijing the alliance's willingness to communicate. Ho also disclosed last month he had met with at least an authorized representative from the central government to discuss the city's political development, though he declined to give details at that time.

The source said the central government had planned to meet with alliance members last week, but both sides agreed to put it off as they considered a meeting before yesterday's by- elections would be "too sensitive." He said the schedule for a meeting shows that both sides now want to have positive interaction.

It is understood the arrangement is unconditional and the alliance has not undertaken to support the 2012 political package.

According to another source, there is still a large gap between the alliance and the central government. The source said because of time constraints, it is unlikely the central government will make concessions big enough for the alliance to support the package. It will also be difficult for the alliance to change its position.

Therefore, the chances are still high for the political package to be vetoed, according to the source. But the alliance hopes that even if the package is rejected, both sides can continue to communicate to lay the foundation for forging a consensus on political development.

It is understood the central government also recognized the importance of communication and has not made support for the 2012 package a condition for such a meeting.

Although intellectuals and leaders of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood have maintained communication with the central authority, communication with the biggest pan-democratic party was suspended after the June 4 crackdown.


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