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Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong’s Legco candidate Ken Chow urged to come clean on ‘threats’

He should explain decision to quit election over safety concerns, party heavyweight says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 12:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 1:44pm

A Liberal Party candidate who gave up his ­Legislative Council bid citing “high-level” threats should explain his case to the public because the rule of law and people’s right to stand for elections could be at stake, the party’s leaders urged yesterday.

The election watchdog said it was alarmed at Ken Chow Wing-kan’s abrupt departure from the race for a seat in the New Territories West constituency, stressing it would not tolerate any threats or ­violence in the polls and would deal with complaints strictly. It also warned ­candidates against spreading false ­information about other contenders.

Chow, a long-time Yuen Long district councillor, yesterday remained tight-lipped after tearfully announcing his ­decision at an election forum on Thursday night, saying only that he would be leaving town and would return to speak about the threats the day after the September 4 ­elections, according to party leaders.

His rival and pro-Beijing lawyer Junius Ho Kwan-yiu denied having any plans to intimidate Chow. But Ho ­admitted one of his supporters had proposed to him that he “pursue” Chow to hit his morale, an idea he claimed he had rejected.

The incident has highlighted the power struggle among rural forces within the city’s pro-establishment camp.

Speaking to the press after filing a report to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Liberal Party’s three honorary chairmen said they were “shocked” at Chow’s decision.

James Tien Pei-chun, who spoke to Chow on the phone after the forum, said Chow appeared “very scared” but refused to tell him who had made threats against him, only revealing they involved the ­personal safety of his campaign team.

“I asked him what he meant by the ‘tall wall’ and the ‘higher-level’ troubles he had mentioned at the forum – whether it is the Hong Kong government or [mainland officials] in Shenzhen – but he wouldn’t tell,” Tien said.

Tien urged Chow to come forward to ­explain the episode to the public as soon as possible.

“This is because the rule of law is important to Hong Kong,” he said. “This is not just your own problem, but one about people’s right to stand for election.”

At the Thursday forum on Cable TV, Chow, running for a seat in New Territories West, shocked his competition by ­announcing he would stop his electioneering for fear that people close to him “would be caught in higher-level troubles and pay a heavy price”.

However, under the law, a candidate cannot officially quit an election.

Chow passed to the media a voice clip in which Ho’s volunteer said he would bring 20 to 30 men to “pursue” Chow before and after the forum.

Ho yesterday said the clip was part of an internal discussion among his campaign team in a WhatsApp group, and he had ­rejected the idea from his volunteer, who owns real estate and catering businesses.

“I have reasons to suspect [Chow’s] ­actions were intentional and orchestrated by himself to target me,” Ho said, stressing he did not know why Chow went after him.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political ­scientist at Chinese University, said while Chow’s claims remained untested, they would, if proven, severely shake ­people’s confidence in the integrity of ­the LegCo elections, which has ­already been called into question over the disqualification of six candidates deemed to have been advocating Hong Kong ­independence from the rest of China.

As to whether the incident would hurt Ho’s campaign, it depended on how it would play out over the next few days, Choy said.

Regardless of Ho’s role, the incident has also shed light on the tension between ­different rural forces, according to Chu Hoi-dick, an activist running in the same constituency who is a vocal critic of the powerful rural body, the Heung Yee Kuk. Chu claimed that the liaison office had an interest in the kuk’s campaign.

Opinion polls have placed Ho on the cusp of winning a seat.

He is thought to be one of the major players scrambling for power within the kuk at a time when competing factions vie for influence as the kuk’s long-time kingpin Lau Wong-fat is ailing.

The kuk is powerful because it has 26 members on the election committee that picks Hong Kong’s leader and one in the legislature, and is linked to many development interests across vast areas of rural land.

Ho, who steered an anti-Occupy ­campaign in 2014, is also seen to have close ties with pro-Beijing forces.

Last month, just a few days after he declared his plan to run in the polls, he was appointed by the government as a New Territories Justice of Peace, a position that enables him to be an ex officio member of the kuk.

In 2011, he angered Lau by unseating him from the chairmanship of the kuk’s Tuen Mun Rural Committee.