'Powerful' kuk may use votes to bargain
The 28 votes the Heung Yee Kuk holds in the chief executive poll put it in a 'powerful' position to defy the government's crackdown on illegal structures on New Territories houses, analysts say.
They spoke as Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor hit back at a rowdy protest by villagers on Monday against the crackdown and insisted the government would not give in.
Political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung believes the kuk, which represents the interests of indigenous residents of the New Territories, will use its votes to pressure chief executive candidates Henry Tang Ying-yen and Leung Chun-ying to make concessions.
Choy, a senior instructor in Chinese University's department of government and public administration, said the two candidates were now engaged in battle. 'The votes that the Heung Yee Kuk holds will play a key role. It is now the most powerful moment for the kuk to bargain with the two candidates,' he said.
Thirty candidates will contest the 28 seats reserved for the Heung Yee Kuk in the Election Committee subsector elections on December 11.
The elected members will join the 1,200-strong Election Committee, which will select the city's next leader on March 25. Former chief secretary Tang and former Executive Council convenor Leung have declared their candidacy in recent days.
After Monday's protest - in which residents and rural leaders burned Lam in effigy - kuk chairman and executive councillor Lau Wong-fat said delaying tactics were a 'good method' for the villagers and the problem should be left for the next government if it could not be resolved before the current administration's term ends on June 30.
Dixon Sing Ming, associate professor of social science at the University of Science and Technology, believes such tactics were used because Lau had been told it was unlikely Tsang would approve preferential treatment for villagers on the unauthorised structure issue.
He said given that New Territories villagers had 'certain representation' on the Election Committee, the candidates were 'in a dilemma', as they dared neither to support a double standard for urban and rural residents nor upset indigenous villagers.
Political pundit James Sung Lap-kung said earlier remarks by Tang and Leung that suggested they were more sympathetic towards the villagers than the government might prompt residents to leave the problem to the next administration.
In October, Tang suggested that the government should consider allowing indigenous villagers in the New Territories to build six- to nine-storey village houses instead of the current three-storey ones.
Leung, meanwhile, agreed the height limit on village houses was not the most efficient use of rural land, but he did not offer any solutions.
Tang yesterday fended off suggestions that his proposal had encouraged villagers to take more radical action, while Leung told TVB news that he would not agree with any proposals that were not in line with the overall interests of society.
The protesters burned a paper coffin bearing Lam's surname and a paper doll resembling her outside kuk headquarters in Sha Tin. Yesterday Lam said she had never thought of declaring an amnesty for those with unauthorised structures and would report to police should she feel any safety threat. 'I keep my cool despite verbal abuse and visual violence, so I won't take any action for what I saw [on television on Monday].'