Rift between Beijing-loyalist DAB and FTU grows

Clashes between DAB and FTU mounting, as latter scrambles for more seats in Legco

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 3:15am

Rivalries within the Beijing-loyalist camp were rare in the past, given the careful orchestration of its members.

But disharmony between two groups, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), publicly emerged during campaigning in the Legislative Council election earlier this month.

With the FTU eager to scramble for more seats in the legislature, clashes between the two groups are likely to increase.

Observers believe that despite the rift in the election campaign and differences on certain policy issues, the two groups will remain allies within the government-friendly camp.

Chan Yuen-han, an FTU heavyweight and DAB co-founder, acknowledged during the campaign that the two were competing against each other.

On election day on September 9, the rivalry became frankly unfriendly when Chan accused the DAB of using trickery to steal votes from her on election day. They allegedly told voters outside polling stations that Chan "had already won", and to vote for someone else instead.

"It is despicable - cheating voters," said Chan. "I'm totally disappointed [with the DAB and pan-democrats].

"The election should have been fair."

Chan dropped her DAB membership last year.

Observers said the rift would not weaken the parties' shared stance of supporting the government. Friction arose during the election, they said, over campaign details such as how to share resources, which candidates to highlight and so forth.

"They may play up their differences a bit to appeal to voters, but in the end they will not say 'no' to the government," said Chung Kim-wah, a social scientist at Polytechnic University. "Looking at their voting record in Legco, even when either party has voted against an issue presented by the government - as a gesture - they still do it carefully to ensure the government's position passes in the end."

The DAB and FTU were close partners in previous elections and they carefully allocated votes to ensure victories.

The divisions began in the 2004 Legco election, when the FTU raised its own banner.

Chan ran for the FTU to highlight its role as a champion of the grass-roots, working class.

In the 2008 Legco election, the FTU fielded several candidates, campaigning with support from and co-ordination with the DAB.

They went their different ways last year, when the government was considering whether to host the Asian Games.

The FTU voted in favour while the DAB opposed the plan, which was eventually shelved.

But Chung, the social scientist, said differences had always existed between the two parties and the rift might resurface on the FTU-backed issues of setting standard working hours and launching a retirement plan for the benefit of all Hongkongers.