Democrats can do even better without me, says Martin Lee

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2008, 12:00am

Democratic Party veteran Martin Lee Chu-ming said yesterday he expected the party he helped found to do even better with him out of the battle, and to hold on to its seats on Hong Kong Island in the Legislative Council election in September.

Mr Lee, who vowed to fight on for democracy 'even when my bones have turned to dust', also backed the pan-democratic camp to retain its crucial 20-seat threshold in the legislature that gives it bargaining power on constitutional issues.

Speaking a day after revealing he would not stand for re-election, he said his family was extremely happy - but he urged former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang to stand.

'It was not an easy decision, but I felt relaxed and happy when I made up my mind, and I believe it is a right decision,' Mr Lee said.

He said he did not plan to emulate other budding and former politicians by forming a think-tank.

Mr Lee, a 23-year Legco veteran who turns 70 in June, said he had decided to make way for new blood in the party. He dismissed concerns that his move could throw his party's and the pan-democratic camp's strategy into disarray.

Mr Lee, a Chelsea supporter, used a football analogy, saying that if the striker was sent off, the other 10 players would play harder and even win the game.

'My stepping down will certainly improve the chances of another party member winning the seat ... I believe the Democratic Party can retain its seats in Hong Kong Island.'

Mr Lee won one of two seats for the party there in 2004 with another former party chairman, Yeung Sum.

Speaking on a radio programme later, he said he hoped Mrs Chan would follow up on her Hong Kong Island by-election victory and stand in September. But he declined to say whether incumbent legislator Sin Chung-kai or district councillor Kam Nai-wai had a better chance of winning the seat he was vacating.