Albert Chan quits day after Democrat leadership change
Legco maverick Albert Chan Wai-yip yesterday quit the Democratic Party, a day after Yeung Sum succeeded Martin Lee Chu-ming as chairman.
Mr Chan's decision marks the latest split in the pro-democracy camp. Although members and observers said his departure would help rebuild unity in the shattered party, some also warned defections by members of the radical wing would increase the party's distance from its roots.
In a statement issued a day after the leadership reshuffle, Mr Chan said he had serious differences with the party, which he helped to found in 1994.
'I believe my decision to resign can reduce the internal conflicts in the Democratic Party,' he said.
Well known for his criticism of 'officials colluding with business' on nearly all policy aspects and his identification with grassroots interests, the Legco firebrand has long been vocal on livelihood issues.
'Going now is better than starting more shouting matches within the party. If you want me to twist my principles and betray my beliefs in order to stay in the party, it would be an even bigger betrayal to the voters,' he said.
But he said his resignation was not a reaction against any member of the party, and he would continue to co-operate with the pro-democracy camp. He would not join other parties and would remain as an independent in the legislature, he said.
Dr Yeung said Mr Lee and vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan had tried in vain to persuade Mr Chan to stay. The new leader said he was sorry to have to accept Mr Chan's resignation.
Stressing that building unity would be his major task, Dr Yeung said Mr Chan's departure would not have much impact.
He said the party's stance on democratic development and livelihood issues would not change. Members would co-operate with Mr Chan, and he would not be seen as an enemy at the 2004 Legco election in the New Territories West constituency.
Party lawmaker Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, also a member of the radical faction, said with Mr Chan's departure the party was nearly cleared of the so-called 'Young Turks' and inner conflict would be lessened. He did not expect more resignations.
In the past two years, more than 50 members of the party have defected to The Frontier.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at City University, said the party's strength would be weakened with the demise of the radical wing. 'Although conflict between factions is normal in political parties, the price to pay for unity is that the party will shrink to the point that it no longer represents a part of society,' he said.