Political Animal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 September, 2009, 12:00am

One party guest who may be lonely in Beijing

Au Pak-kuen just may have been handed the unique privilege of being the only pan-democrat invited to Beijing for the People's Republic's 60th-anniversary bash. Au, a Democratic Party member and chief treasurer of that hotbed of pro-democracy activity the Professional Teachers' Union, is probably best known for his defence of Chinese sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu Islands. He is among about 150 educators joining a delegation organised by the Education Bureau and the central government's liaison office on a five-day trip starting on Sunday. Au says he has no idea whether there is any political message behind the invitation. But he says he will reflect the views of the pan-democrats to mainland officials if there are 'appropriate occasions'. Meanwhile, the guessing game goes on about whether any pan-democrats will join a 250-strong delegation led by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen to the celebrations. None have received invitations but officials have yet to finish mailing them out. Any bets?

A headache for dithering Democrats

As the pan-democrats' 23 lawmakers prepare for a meeting tomorrow to discuss who, if anyone, will resign in five seats so that the resulting by-elections will serve as a de facto referendum on the government's political reform measures, some politicians have a headache. The problem is that the Democratic Party is expected to remain publicly undecided on the plan. 'We can't tell people after the meeting that since the Democrats have yet to decide, there is no progress,' one pan-democrat leader said. The Democrats are to meet like-minded independents today to gauge their views. Despite an earlier protest at being left out of the discussions, some independents have privately said they are willing to support it as long as they do not have to step down. Under the plan, one pan-democrat lawmaker from each of the five geographical constituencies will resign the day the government issues its reform proposals. Maybe the hesitant Democrats are conducting a mini-referendum of their own about their chances of being re-elected afterwards.

Exco convenor's voice heard far and wide

As anger continues to simmer over the roughing-up of three Hong Kong journalists in Xinjiang , Leung Chun-ying, a likely candidate for chief executive in 2012, has been sparing no effort to make his voice known on the issue - even during his absence. The Executive Council convenor had to rush away on Tuesday from a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference to attend an Exco meeting. But Hong Kong committee member Chan Wing-kee - who called for the central government to investigate the beatings - said he was also speaking for Leung. Chan said he did not believe the journalists had incited protesters in Urumqi , as alleged by Xinjiang officials. Chan said a CPPCC vice-chairman, whom he declined to name, was present at the CPPCC panel discussion and the advisory body's secretariat would convey their views to senior officials.

Allies of Henry Tang demand fair play

The increase in Leung Chun-ying's public activities has worried some friends of a potential chief executive rival - Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen. They say the Exco convenor has jumped the gun. 'This is unfair to Henry,' a fellow Exco member said. 'If C. Y. wants to start his campaign so early, he should resign from Exco and do it.' While neither has campaigned openly, Tang is seen as being at a disadvantage because, as a minister, he has to resign before starting a campaign. But the Exco member said any external or internal struggle between the pair would not affect policymaking. 'The convenor only convenes the meeting between non-official members, and the real power rests with the ministers.'