Chaos at district council over Basic Law event funding

Guards called in as Democrat claims colleagues compromised by roles with funding applicant

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 4:17pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 3:16am

Chaos erupted at a meeting of Central and Western district councillors yesterday over a funding proposal that opponents say is linked to pro-Beijing forces.

The scheduled one-hour meeting to discuss funding for "Basic Law and constitutional development" events lasted close to four hours - with a break for another meeting between - as councillors shouted at one another and accusations of conflicts of interest flew.

It ended in no decision being made and security guards being called in to remove Democratic Party councillor Ted Hui Chi-Fung - who claimed that 13 councillors held positions with a proposed recipient of the funds.

The council's working group on civic education was discussing a proposed HK$150,000 grant to the Hong Kong Island Federation and its Association of the Hong Kong Central and Western District, which is closely related to the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

The money is the bulk of HK$250,000 granted to the council by the government to promote the Basic Law. Hui called for councillors with no conflict of interest to be able to vote on whether Stephen Chan Chit-kwai continue to chair the meeting as he was a member of the association's board, an unpaid post.

"Even though there are no monetary benefits, having positions at the organisation would mean there could be influence on decisions," Hui said. "It's not fair for those with vested interests to vote on funding applications for a group they are involved in."

The association was seeking funds for an essay competition on the Basic Law and constitutional development, and to organise a tea party.

Arguments erupted after the councillors said their positions on the association did not create any conflict of interest as they were not paid.

Chan then called in security guards to remove Hui and party colleague Ng Siu-hong for disrupting the meeting and refusing to comply with the rules. A chair was broken and the meeting ended in angry shouting.

"I don't yet know what the next step is," Chan said afterwards. "But I do hope we can still discuss this application."

Another application for cash from the same funds to hold a youth camp was approved earlier. Hui had opposed that, saying the groups organising the camp were pro-Beijing so would not provide a balanced view.

Police officers removed Hui when he refused to leave a meeting on the same issue on March 6.