Brokers eye seat of departing lawmaker
Enoch Yiu and Peter So
Four veteran brokers have expressed interest in the Legislative Council's financial-services seat after incumbent Chim Pui-chung's surprise decision to withdraw from the election in September.
Chim, a five-term lawmaker, hinted at the move on Thursday, days after submitting his nomination paper. He said yesterday he had initially wanted to run for one more term but changed his mind recently.
'I am 66 years old now and I have occupied the seat for almost 20 years. It's time for me to step down to let someone younger run,' Chim said.
He rejected any suggestion he had been subjected to political pressure after backing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's election rival, Henry Tang Ying-yen, and casting a crucial vote against a proposal to fast-track Leung's plan for a government revamp, causing its defeat.
Chim's withdrawal caused a flurry of interest in the seat. The president of the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society, Haywood Cheung Tak-hay, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing director Vincent Lee Kwan-ho, and Christfund Securities chairman Chris Cheung Wah-fung said they were considering a run.
Tang Yu-lap, a veteran foreign-exchange trader who is also chairman of Hantec Group, has already submitted his nomination.
Chim was a legislator from 1991 until he was jailed for conspiring to forge documents in 1998, then returned to the chamber in 2004. He was treated for cancer in 2007 but recovered and was re-elected in 2008. A core supporter of Tang, he declined to attend banquets with the new chief executive and Beijing-loyalist lawmakers after Leung's election.
On June 21, the defeat of a proposal to put Leung's revamp plan - which would have created new policy bureaus - at the top of the agenda meant it could not be debated before the end of the legislature's term.
'There is no political pressure on me,' Chim said yesterday. 'It is also not due to any health issue, as I feel fit and well. But I just think it is really time for me to call it a day. At 66, it is time for me to enjoy life rather than spending time in the Legco.'
None of the four potential candidates has any political-party links, but could all be considered Beijing loyalists as the financial sector eyes expanding on the mainland. All said they would lobby for the mainland to open up more to local brokers.
Chim said he had wanted to encourage former Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Paul Chow Man-yiu to run for the seat but Chow showed no interest.
Haywood Cheung said he might run but worried about the workload, as he has many plans for the 102-year-old gold bourse. 'If I decide to run, I will work for the whole gold industry, which I think to be an important part of the local market,'' he said.
Chris Cheung said he would fight for measures to help local brokers survive. 'Many brokers are suffering from low turnover and competition from banks.'
Accountant Frankie Yan Man-sing of the pan-democratic group Professional Commons, who is seeking nominations to run for the seat, said Chim's withdrawal might help him canvass support.