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  • Aug 29, 2014
  • Updated: 11:10am
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POLITICS

Three-way fight for Legislative Council's culture seat

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 2:46am

For once there's a contest for Legco's culture seat - even if just 2,586 electors decide who wins.

Three candidates are vying for the functional constituency long represented by Timothy Fok Tsun-ting.

Visual artist Chow Chun-fai, 32, is challenging veteran government-friendly politician and former Arts Development Council chairman Ma Fung-kwok, 57, in the race for the sports, performing arts, culture and publication seat. Solicitor Jimmy Siu See-kong, 61, is also standing.

The field was opened up when Fok, the eldest son of late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung, who has the worst attendance record at Legco and hasn't put forward a motion in a decade, said he was stepping down from the seat, which he has occupied unopposed since the handover.

During Fok's tenure the culture and sports sectors received little attention from either the government or the legislature.

Chow, a Chinese University fine arts graduate and winner of a Sovereign Asian Art Prize, advocates a cultural perspective in government policymaking. "The rights to culture belong to everyone, and it's not something that can be quantified by [gross domestic product]," he said.

Chow is based at the Fo Tan Artist Village in the New Territories and has earned recognition with works such as his Painting on Movie series.

Lately he has got more involved in campaigning on cultural issues. Chow is chairman of the Factory Artists Concern Group and last year protested against the government's policy on revitalising industrial buildings - taking the cause to Ma, then still with the Arts Development Council. The group also campaigned for the "expulsion of Timothy Fok" from Legco.

Chow was among a group of creative workers who protested against proposed criminal sanctions in the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance, fearing loss of freedom of expression.

More recently, Chow became convenor of the Hong Kong Cultural Sector Joint Conference 2.0, which discussed the establishment of a culture bureau.

"It's a natural development for me to move on from doing creative work to politics," he said.

Chow's election platform calls for democracy and the abolition of what he terms the unjust functional constituencies. He urges the government to apply a cultural vision in its policymaking, from urban planning to land use and education, and to allocate its sports and culture budget more sensibly and fairly.

Culture, Chow says, should best be promoted by placing trust in professionals and letting them do things for the public.

Ma supported Leung Chun-ying as chief executive, but when asked about the scandals that have engulfed him, he said: "[I am] disappointed."

Ma proposes revisiting a 2003 report drafted by the Cultural and Heritage Commission, of which he was a member, which suggested the government renew its focus on cultural policy with the establishment of a culture bureau. More resources should be given to the Arts Development Council to do the "real development work", he says.

On the hot-button issue of national education, Ma doubts the need for separate lessons, and draws instead on culture. "Understanding your own culture and history is the best national education," he says.

Chow admits his chances of victory are slim but says he will continue his political work, win or lose.

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