Political Animal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 December, 2009, 12:00am

Macau shuts the door on birthday boy

The Macau face-saving machinery to ensure there are no embarrassing scenes while mainland officials visit the city for the handover anniversary seems to be in full swing once again, with a lesser-known Democratic Party member rejected at immigration yesterday. Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said Southern district councillor Chai Man-hon had only wanted to visit Macau with his parents to celebrate his father's birthday, and believed the authorities there were being unreasonably sensitive because of the handover celebrations. 'He had booked tickets and everything. He's just an ordinary citizen. How much of a disturbance could he possibly create?' Ho asked. However, with the League of Social Democrats and Civic Party busy plotting their referendum plan, it's no surprise that mainland officials have turned their attention to the lesser-known pan-democrats. Indeed, mainland researchers seem to have been particularly keen lately on gathering intelligence about such people, worried by the recent spate of surprise demonstrations by activists with little public history.

A case of backing the wrong horse

Financial services lawmaker Chim Pui-chung is a renowned gambler, and a successful one, but yesterday he was reminded of one bet that went wrong. Upon hearing of the pan-democrats' plan to trigger by-elections through the resignation of five lawmakers to create a de facto referendum on universal suffrage, in September Chim bet it wouldn't happen, and that if it did, he would be the sixth lawmaker to resign to 'play along'. But as Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung announced an estimated HK$150 million would be needed for any surprise by-elections, lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee noted that figure was based on incomplete data. 'You make that estimate based on by-elections for five constituencies, but in fact it should be based on six constituencies, since lawmaker Chim will also be stepping down,' Fung quipped. But Lam said that even if a by-election were needed for a functional constituency as well as the geographical constituencies, the extra resources required would be minimal. Despite a stint in jail, Chim has twice been returned to the Legislative Council unopposed in a constituency that has only 578 corporate voters.

Those resignation ripples widen

Meanwhile, the resignation plan has caught the eye not only of Beijing but of the international community, including that of James Moran, director general for external relations of the European Commission, who arrived last night for an annual visit. In a series of meetings with lawmakers and government officials, Moran is expected to touch on the constitutional-reform question as well as the latest economic situation. But the pan-democrats should not expect great sympathy from foreign countries over their resignation plan, according to one diplomat who said it was difficult for foreigners to see what urgency there was for them to quit their seats in the legislature.

Regina Ip goes public on pay cuts

After the legislature's passage of a bill to cut civil servants' pay yesterday, will staff at Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee's Savantas Policy Institute also face pay cuts? Ip, who opposed cutting pay for senior civil servants, cited her position as a 'small and medium-sized enterprise employer' when making an attempt to block the proposal. As a boss, Ip said she would make salary adjustments for her staff following the government's action, reminding officials that a pay cut in the public sector would trigger some effects in the private one.