Legco elusive to most Democrats
The Democratic Party leadership may have defused some grievances among second-tier members after kick-starting the internal party mechanism to select a Legco by-election candidate, but for aspirants the legislature remains a distant dream.
It is expected that veteran Central and Western district councillor Kam Nai-wai and party central committee member Andrew Fung Wai-kwong will be the main contestants to seek the party's approval when members meet early next month.
But for Mr Kam, even if he was endorsed and became the party's 'candidate', he would have to defeat other pan-democrat heavyweights like Cyd Ho Sau-lan and possibly Lo Wing-lok, of the League of Social Democrats, to become the representative for the camp in the Legco by-election on Hong Kong Island.
Without naming anyone, Dr Lo said yesterday 'someone had stuck out their head' before the democratic camp had settled on a preferred candidate. Ms Ho was the first to declare her intention to run.
At a party meeting last week where members raised strong grievances about their plight, Mr Kam said: 'I've been in the pro-democracy movement for 20 years, but channels for people like me to rise up the political ladder have always been few.
'People will be disheartened if the party cannot show us any prospects for the future.'
Mr Kam's frustration was shared by many of his contemporaries who have worked year after year for the party in the districts, but lacked any real opportunity to join their party leaders in Legco, some of whom have occupied their seats for more than a decade.
Being a founding member in 1988 of the United Democrats - the predecessor of the Democratic Party - the 48-year-old has been a district councillor since 1994.
After serving four years in parallel as an urban councillor before the municipal councils were scrapped in 1999, Mr Kam had high hopes to be his party's Legco candidate when a by-election on Hong Kong Island was called in 2000.
But he was 'sacrificed' by the party, which decided to support barrister Audrey Eu Yuet-mee - then considered a political star - rather than fielding its own members.
'These sorts of things are exactly the reason why there should be an established and tested mechanism for the party to allow its second-tier members to join elections.
'Do we all have to become barristers if we want to have a chance to run?'
This time, although indirectly admitting his chances to become the pan-democrats' favoured candidate were slim - saying he was 'at a different level' if he had to challenge Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is expected to represent Beijing loyalists - Mr Kam believed he and his colleagues' efforts would bear fruit.
'Although the chances for second-tier members to run for Legco are always slim, at least now we can set a precedent for us to at last make a start,' he said.