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Legislative Council elections 2016

Trade union veteran Wong Kwok-hing blames Legco election defeat on ‘rumours’ and dishonest tactics

Wong Kwok-hing failed in his bid to retain outgoing party colleague Chan Yuen-han’s super seat

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 September, 2016, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 9:34am

Federation of Trade Unions veteran Wong Kwok-hing has said his Beijing-loyalist allies are partly to blame for spreading rumours which led to his defeat in the Legislative Council polls.

In his first exclusive interview after losing his seat, Wong told the Post that such tactics were “irresponsible and dishonest”. The FTU’s candidates would never adopt such a strategy - not even against their pan-democratic or radical rivals, he said.

Wong’s criticisms highlighted the widening rift between the FTU and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - the city’s biggest pro-Beijing party and formerly the federation’s closest ally.

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On September 4, Wong failed in his bid to retain outgoing party colleague Chan Yuen-han’s super seat - one of the five District Council (Second) seats elected by 3.5 million voters. The five seats went to three pan-democrats and two DAB candidates - the party’s chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king and her deputy Holden Chow Ho-ding.

Wong said: “An important reason [why I lost] was that people from all directions snatched my votes ... There were rumours saying that I had got enough votes, don’t vote for me anymore, vote for Chow Ho-ding.”

Asked if he believed that it was the pan-democrats, DAB or Chow’s team spreading the rumours, Wong said: “I’ll just repeat what I said: It came from all sides.”

“In past elections, FTU candidates would never say ‘they have enough votes, vote for us’ ... If you talk about others without information backing it up, it is irresponsible and dishonest,” he added.

But Wong also said that since the election had ended, he just wanted to tell Lee and Chow that the pro-establishment camp will need to step up co-operation, especially after six localists were elected into the legislature, and warned about aggressive means to confront the government.

“[Pro-establishment groups] have differences, but we need to seek consensus, support one another ... and serve Hong Kong with truthfulness and sincerity,” he said.

Chow told the Post that the DAB did not spread rumours about the FTU’s candidates.

“I think ‘all directions and sides’ mean the pan-democrats ... It’s not surprising that they did that, but the pro-establishment camp would not do so [to an ally],” he said.

In the past, the DAB and the FTU used to campaign side by side in district and Legislative Council elections, and FTU candidates were usually registered as DAB members to make use of the party’s election machine and fame. The district council poll in 2011 and the Legco poll in the following year were the first campaigns that FTU fought on their own - in a bid to raise the profile of the federation, founded in 1948.

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The separation of the two groups was also meant to help DAB to broaden its support base, but it also caused the two to go different ways. For example, FTU lawmakers Chan and Kwok Wai-keung have been more critical of the city’s labour policy while the DAB was regarded as more supportive of the government.

Dr Li Pang-kwong, director of Lingnan University’s public governance programme, said Wong’s remarks showed that the election created conflicts and disharmony within the pro-Beijing camp.

But Li and Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok believe that the two groups will continue to be close allies in the future.

“[The spread of rumours] is part of their election strategy, because they have been competing for seats all these years ... But if there are orders from the central government in the future, they are unlikely to say no” and disagree with one another, he said.

“The FTU was also understood to have received help from Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong.”

But Wong dismissed the suggestion. “Our campaign relied on our unions and members ... It was unrelated to the liaison office,” he said.

Wong hoped that the FTU can improve its publicity and win more district council seats in the coming years, so that it can win a “super seat” and a seat in New Territories East in the next election.