Chief gave party $5m to stay afloat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 December, 1999, 12:00am

Former Liberal Party chairman Allen Lee Peng-fei has disclosed he spent an average of $100,000 a month from his own pocket to keep the party afloat during the time he was in charge.

Mr Lee said the party's finances, to which he donated a total of $5 million during his tenure, were a 'horror story'.

'I always tell people the Liberal Party is the poorest political party in Hong Kong, but nobody believes me,' the veteran politician said.

Mr Lee, who now runs a consultancy firm in Central, made his fortune after setting up Jada Electronics, which specialised in circuit boards, in the early 1980s. He began his career in 1970 with US electronics company Ampex Ferrotec.

Mr Lee said that while party chairman between 1993 and 1998 he had been unable to criticise the business sector's apathy and unwillingness to donate. But after he quit following his defeat in last year's Legco polls, he told major property developers: 'Shame on you.' Since then, they had begun to give, but it was still not enough. 'It's peanuts. But they are not even willing to pay peanuts to establish a fully fledged centre-right party,' he said.

Mr Lee said that in his first four years, his monthly legislator's salary of $57,000 was spent on staff pay, plus a further $50,000 each month to keep the party running, some of which went on district expenses.

'To me, it's a lot of money. My wife kept asking my why I was spending so much,' he said. He spent a total of $5 million during his time in charge, not including an interest-free loan of $1 million which the party repaid last year.

Mr Lee said it had been hard to squeeze money from business people - although two or three had been very faithful - despite the fact his party represented their interests.

'It's like asking for charity. They just don't care. The whole business sector doesn't understand that, in Hong Kong, we always depend on government policies,' he said, referring to the fact there is no ruling party. 'But that's coming. So the Liberal Party'd better be ready.' During one crisis, Mr Lee called in then party treasurer James Tien Pei-chun and vice-chairman Ronald Arculli. 'Jimmy, Ron and myself each took $250,000 from our own pockets to help finance the salaries of the party's staff,' he said.