Pan-democrat candidates vying for trade-based seats up for election battle

Pro-democracy aspirants hope to profit from their election tussles with establishment candidates

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 August, 2012, 5:06am

Pan-democrat candidates vying for two trade-based seats in the Legislative Council election next month hope to benefit from the tussle, where the pro-government incumbents are being challenged by new supporters of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Albert Lai Kwong-tak, from the pan-democratic camp, is running for the second time for the engineering functional constituency seat, said he was positive about his chances of winning as he foresaw his rivals, from different pro-establishment camps, would have a hard fight.

Lai, who clinched 2,522 votes but lost to Dr Raymond Ho Chung-tai of the centre-right Professional Forum, by only 193 votes in the 2008 small circle election, said "professional integrity" would distinguish himself from other candidates.

"I will support new infrastructure projects only if they are cost-effective and beneficial to Hong Kong," Lai said. "I won't let political considerations override professional ones if a project is a white elephant."

For example, Lai objects to a new rail link between Tuen Mun and Tsuen Wan, which rural leaders want as it would raise land values along the line.

Lai chose to be nominated as chairman of Professional Commons instead of vice-chairman of the Civic Party, which had been under attack after some party members took controversial legal action over the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge.

Despite Lai's return, Ho, who backed Henry Tang Ying-yen in the chief executive election, focused his attack on the other candidate, Dr Lo Wai-kwok, who had backed Leung Chun-ying in the chief executive race.

In a campaign leaflet to voters, 73-year-old civil engineer Ho, who has occupied the Legco engineering seat since 1996, said: "I am not 'anointed'. I am an engineer who knows about infrastructure."

Lo, an industrial engineer nominated by several industry veterans who once backed Ho, dismissed suggestions that he had the blessing of Beijing.

He, however, admitted that he had met officials from the central government's liaison office in the city a few months ago.

"The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers sometimes needs to rely on mainland agencies to approach our counterparts on the mainland. In the meeting we talked about different things … They only asked about the election out of care," he said.

A fourth candidate for the seat is Luk Wang-kwong, who is making his fourth bid for the seat, having run unsuccessfully in 2004, 2000 and 1998.

The battle is equally bitter in the architectural, surveying and planning sector, with a candidate nominated from each of the three sectors.

Stanley Ng Wing-fai, also of Professional Commons and a Democratic Party member, said he was hopeful despite losing the 2008 election by a large margin - his 712 votes were just 18 per cent of the ballot.

"Many young engineers have joined the industry since more university places were opened to cope with the new infrastructure projects in the past few years.

"I believe they are more democratically-minded," Ng, an urban planner, said.

"Following recent property scandals involving different government officials, I believe it is even more important to have a trade representative with professional integrity and who is independent from the establishment."