LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL ELECTIONS

Current sector representative ‘did little’ to help Hong Kong accountants, new Legco challenger says

Kenneth Chen, seen by some as a pro-establishment contender, seeks to make it easier for city’s accountants to work on the mainland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 5:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 9:26pm

In the second of a two-part series on the scramble for seats in functional constituencies in the Legislative Council elections on September 4, we look at another three key battlefields: architectural, surveying, planning and landscape; legal; and accountancy.

Thousands of voters in each sector will choose their representative on the polling day.

Pan-democratic incumbents in the legal and accountancy sectors face challengers claiming to be independents who want to focus on matters in their respective trades.

In the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, a liberal-minded land policy academic and a prominent architect take on the government-friendly incumbent.

Competition is expected to be fierce among candidates vying for functional constituency seats in this year’s election. With 12 candidates in 10 functional constituencies being returned unopposed, 43 hopefuls will run for seats in 18 trade-based constituencies – four more contested functional constituencies than in the 2012 Legco polls.

Although accountant Kenneth Chen claims he shares some key political views of the pan-democratic camp, he wants to unseat the sector’s representative Kenneth Leung as he feels the pan-democrat has done little to help tens of thousands of accountants in Hong Kong.

Chen’s plans include urging mainland authorities to make it easier for Hong Kong accountants to work across the border. The 45-year-old also wants local officials to offer tax incentives to help young people with their housing needs.

“[We need to] find new markets and ... offset the negative impact from the Hong Kong economic downturn,” Chen said.

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Four years ago, Leung, from the Professional Commons, won a tight four-cornered fight by bagging 47 per cent of the ballots, while his arch-rival Nelson Lam Chi-yuen came in second with 40 per cent.

When September 4 arrives, 26,008 accountants will decide whether Leung or Chen will represent them for the next four years. The number of voters in the sector is the third-highest among the 28 traditional functional constituencies.

Chen studied in Australia before returning to Hong Kong in 1992 to work as an auditor. He became a full member of CPA Australia in 1998, and was CPA Australia’s divisional president for greater China last year. He is now the partner in an accounting firm.

Chen added that he wanted to run because he was “worried and saddened by the incessant bickering” between the rival camps in Legco. “Hong Kong people do not want our legislators to become enemies of the Hong Kong government because we are not going anywhere,” he said.

Since Chen announced his bid on July 17, he was regarded by commentators as pro-establishment.

But he dismissed the suggestion and insisted that he is “truly independent” and not affiliated to any political group. “Find a single strand of evidence that I am pro-government,” Chen said. “I definitely do not support the passing, at least in the next four years, of Article 23 [the national security legislation].”

Chen also said that just like many pan-democrats, he took part in the sit-in outside the government’s headquarters after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and the Executive Council refused to grant a free-to-air licence to media tycoon Ricky Wong Wai-kay’s Hong Kong Television Network in 2013. “I [also] do not support Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for another term ... because the major problem in Hong Kong right now is its political polarisation. To a certain extent, Mr CY Leung is responsible.”

But Kenneth Leung, 53, said he believes Chen has the backing of the pro-Beijing camp. “If he truly wanted to serve the sector, why did hesay he wanted to run only in June?” he said.

He added that the mainland market was not opening up rapidly for Hong Kong accountants because officials have been cautious on their negotiations with mainland authorities. “The business ethics and practices there are still incompatible with international standards ... and there are a lot of risk factors for Hong Kong accountants there,” he said.

Leung added that in the last four years, his Legco work include joining 31 bills committees, enabling the passage of an amendment bill to prohibit the misuse of the term “certified public accountant”, and pursuing reforms both to regulate auditors, as well as to better protect them from business risks. “I have been [advocating] that accountants should go all over Asia, and not just focus on the mainland ... Officials should also strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a public treasury centre.”

Leung believes he understands the sector better than his rival, as he has been working in London, the mainland and Hong Kong for more than two decades.