Controversy as Lau Kong-wah makes C.Y.'s cabinet
Lau Kong-wah's appointment after his Legco bruising divides critics and prompts call for Beijing loyalist to work evenly with pan-democrats
Joshua But and Lauren Ho
Lau Kong-wah, a Beijing-friendly heavyweight and the most prominent loser in the Legislative Council election in September, was appointed as undersecretary for constitutional and mainland affairs yesterday to oversee the upcoming political reform.
Dr Li Pang-kwong, an associate professor with Lingnan University, said Lau now faced the challenge of role transformation. "Lau was a former vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and a former legislator," Li said. "He needs to transform his role when he works with the pan-democrats.
"How he will position himself and the way he articulates his discourse on constitutional reform will affect the relationship between the pan-democratic camp and the government.
"If he fails to blend in his new role, tensions between the two sides will be further intensified."
Li noted the appointment came five months after the election of Leung Chun-ying as chief executive. The incomplete cabinet revealed Leung's lack of support and a dearth of political talent, Li said.
Lau's appointment drew polarised reactions, with the pan-democrats saying it ran counter to what voters wanted.
Lau, 55, began his political career as a Sha Tin district board member in 1985 and became the founding member of the United Democrats of Hong Kong - now the Democratic Party - after the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
He was defeated in the 1991 Legco election and quit the party afterwards.
In 1997, he made a shock decision to join the provisional Legco and switch his membership to the DAB.
He has scaled the political ladder since then, becoming the vice-chairman of the biggest pro-establishment party in 2005, and a member of the executive council in 2008. He lost his bid to win one of the five newly created "super seats" in September's Legco election.
DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung welcomed the appointment. "It is good if our party can be a powerhouse to provide political talent to the government. Lau is an experienced politician and he is well qualified to take up the post," he said.
Emily Lau Wai-hing, chairwoman of the Democratic Party, said the appointment was like "slapping voters' faces".
"He had just lost in the poll. It is similar to the irony when the government appointed defeated district council candidates to the district council," she said.
A government source said Lau was an experienced politician who could contribute to the administration and the public should not judge a politician on the outcome of a single election.
Henry Ho Kin-chung, a former senior manager at the communications and public affairs office of the University of Hong Kong, was appointed as a political assistant to Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po.
Michelle Au Wing-tsz, a former deputy environmental affairs manager with Friends of the Earth, was appointed as a political assistant to Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing.