Peace hopes low for Democrats' dinner

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 January, 2007, 12:00am

Reformist and mainstream factions of the Democratic Party held peace talks at a dinner last night, striving to achieve unity and hoping to put last year's bickering behind them.

Chan King-ming, regarded as the leader of the reformist faction, joined new party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan and his deputy, Tik Chi-yuen, for the dinner meeting.

Democrat lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, who did not attend, hoped the meeting would lead to improved relations between the two sides.

'It's going to be a busy and difficult year, and we must face these challenges together as a united party,' he said.

But Mr Cheung thought last night's meeting was only the start of repairs to ties that have been severely strained recently.

Leaked e-mails, internal investigations and a leadership election last month heightened long-standing tensions between the mainstream faction of the better-known lawmakers and the younger generation of reformists.

Mr Cheung predicted further internal strife, with members set to debate who should stand for the 2008 Legislative Council election.

'There's one word to describe the situation we are in at the moment - difficult,' he said.

Four reformist Democrats, including Gary Fan Kwok-wai, an outspoken critic of the party leadership for lacking a succession plan, refused to attend the dinner. He said he and the three Tai Po district councillors did not think anything constructive could be achieved by 'just having dinner'.

Professor Chan was ousted as party vice-chairman in last month's election while losing the race for chairmanship of the party with his running-mate Kwong Kwok-chuen, who attended last night's dinner.

Before the meeting, Professor Chan said although the dinner appeared to be a meeting between the winners and losers of last month's leadership election, he was '100 per cent not unhappy because of the election result'.

He hoped to 'lay to rest' a report by the mainstream faction last November criticising him for failing to report encounters with mainland figures, thereby risking infiltration.

'I call that a trash report - something they keep bringing out in public as character assassination,' he said.

'This is what I am most upset about.'