Regina Ip's New People's Party, Civil Force in marriage of convenience
Fanny W. Y. Fung and Tanna Chong
The New People's Party is set to expand its territory, with a special meeting on Tuesday expected to endorse a plan to link up with the New Territories East group Civil Force.
Instead of a clear-cut merger, New People's Party (NPP) members will also sign up to Civil Force and vice versa, and the chairman of Civil Force will join the leadership of the New People's Party.
At present, the NPP has two legislative councillors - party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who also sits on the Executive Council, and vice-chairman Michael Tien Puk-sun.
Civil Force has one legislator, Lam Tai-fai, of the industrial functional constituency.
NPP has 12 district councillors across Hong Kong Island and the New Territories, while its new partner has 18 district councillors in Sha Tin and Sai Kung, both in New Territories East.
Ip had earlier said her party was seeking to merge with the group, but Civil Force honorary chairman Wai Kwok-hung said yesterday the two sides could not agree on a joint name so decided to retain both.
All Civil Force district councillors would join the NPP and vice versa, while both lawmakers from the party would join the Civil Force, Wai said. Lam had earlier indicated that he did not intend to join the NPP.
The partnership means that both groups will together have 30 seats on district councils.
"It is neither a merger nor an acquisition [of Civil Force by NPP]. It is an affiliation - many of us will join Civil Force and vice versa," Tien said.
"The two separate entities and their autonomy will be maintained, as a start of further co-operation. We will join hands when it is necessary."
Civil Force chairman Pun Kwok-shan, a Sha Tin district councillor, has been named as the candidate for the party's extra vice-chairmanship as a result of the plan.
He said members from the two groups might stand in Legco and district council elections under both groups' names.
Pun said further co-operation would be beneficial: "Mrs Ip and Mr Tien can bring voices from our districts to Legco, while our local knowledge and experience can help them."
With a stronghold in the New Territories East, Pun said it was too early to say whether the two groups would seek a Legco seat in the constituency in the next election. But he believed the partnership would at least help strengthen their power in district ballots.
"The New People's Party has a good reputation and Mrs Ip has been rated as a popular member of Exco so this can help us. On the other hand, the party may not know the district's situation as well as we do. We have been in Sha Tin for long and can help them in this regard."