Wong unwilling to serve two masters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 1993, 12:00am

In today's profile of leading legislators, we look at how Samuel Wong Ping-wai works hard to maintain his independent image, while forming a loose coalition among his colleagues.

TO independent legislator Samuel Wong, joining a political party while representing engineers in the legislature would be like serving two masters.

It is for this reason he chose to drop out of the Co-operative Resources Centre (CRC) when members decided to turn it into a political party early last year.

''While my functional constituents already have a platform, the CRC also has another platform. I have to be answerable to my voters,'' he said.

The engineer said he joined the CRC simply to share resources, which was the original aim of the 21 legislators who grouped together after the 1991 elections.

He said having to ask party permission to vote when there was a conflict of interest with his constituents' needs was not a long-term solution.

Yet, he has ignored his constituents' views at least once. Just a month after the Governor unveiled his constitutional reforms last October, Mr Wong refused to support a proposal that the nine new functional constituencies depart from the established format.

One of his reasons for doing so was that China did not like the proposal.

''Cordial relations with China are of paramount importance and we should do nothing to make leaders there feel we are trying to trick them,'' wrote Mr Wong in a letter to the Post last November.

It was not until last March that Mr Wong found his voters favouring the Governor's proposal to enlarge the size of the electorate of the new functional seats. An opinion poll carried out by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers revealed large-scale support.

Mr Wong stuck to his original stand, despite an earlier declaration that he would vote according to the survey results.

''This [the survey] will not be binding because they elected me as their representative and I will make my own decision, depending on the situation,'' he said after the results of the survey.

But Mr Wong does not always see things China's way. He said he was ready to back the Hong Kong proposal to go ahead with the airport projects without Beijing's blessing.

Last November, he also dismissed a mainland official's idea to enlarge the Shenzhen airport, instead of building Chek Lap Kok airport.

While enjoying complete freedom to decide his stand, Mr Wong is well aware of the limitations of a lone fighter in the law-making assembly. It is for this reason, he became a core member of a loose alliance of legislators after quitting the CRC.

A loose coalition of ''breakfast legislators'' was formed last August from 23 legislators who are either without a party background or are sole representatives of one. It started with 10 members and increased to 12 some time later.

Tomorrow: Jimmy McGregor