Newly elected Hong Kong lawmaker does not rule out giving up pilot job to focus on new duties

Kowloon East’s Jeremy Tam Man-ho says he’s prepared to quit flying as getting city on the right track needs his attention more

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 10:41pm

When Jeremy Tam Man-ho was announced as a winner in the Legislative Council election at the vote-counting centre on September 5, a dozen Civic Party volunteers, most of whom were middle-aged women, chanted “Pilot, pilot”.

But Tam may need to drop his status as a pilot for one of Hong Kong’s main airlines – which he insisted the South China Morning Post not name – if his flying workload interferes with his new responsibilities as a lawmaker.

His message is clear. “I may have what people regard as a coveted job but what needs my attention more is playing a role that can help Hong Kong get back on the right track,” he said in an interview with the Post.

High-flying Hong Kong pilot looks to stay down to earth with Kowloon East poll bid for Civic Party

Tam, a new father of two, said his decision was for the well-being of the next generation. “I am prepared to give up my permanent job,” he said, choosing to prioritise what may only be a four-year position with less than half his current monthly salary.

“In the past few years, we have all seen the deterioration of Hong Kong, with Beijing stepping up its erosion of our society. I don’t want my children to live in an unlivable environment or keep thinking about moving overseas,” he said. “In my view, ‘one country, two systems’ has never been successfully implemented.”

Tam made his first appearance in elections in 2007 – nine years before his eventual success – when he ran as an independent candidate in a district council poll in Tung Chung, where he used to live. He lost to a rival from, well, the Civic Party, which he joined three years later.

In 2011 and last year, Tam was again defeated in the district council polls in Tung Chung and Kwun Tong respectively.

But his efforts were recognised by the Civic Party in 2012 – his first taste of the Legco election – when he was placed second on veteran lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit’s slate in Kowloon East. Leong was elected but Tam was not.

This time, the Civic Party positioned the candidates the other way round with Tam leading the party’s slate and Leong placed behind him to boost the pilot’s chance of winning. The strategy worked as Tam succeeded Leong by winning the fifth and last seat in Kowloon East with 45,408 votes.

Though his legislative knowledge is obviously weaker than that of the former Bar Association chairman, he believes he has his strengths too, most notably in transport policies.

Already, he has vowed to scrutinise MTR’s profit calculation mechanism – which does not take into account advertising revenues or proceeds generated from property projects on new stations. He also proposed that the government buy back the Western Harbour Crossing once the Central-Wan Chai bypass is completed.

But he said few agendas would be as urgent as a Legco investigation into the removal of Rebecca Li Bo-lan as the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation chief.

Pan-democrats have hoped to use the issue to find impropriety on the part of Leung Chun-ying, whose receipt of HK$50 million from a company shortly before he became chief executive had been widely criticised.

Even before the polls, Tam had been critical of the chief executive. In April, a political storm was triggered after it was revealed that Leung Chung-yan, the Hong Kong leader’s younger daughter, left her luggage in a non-restricted area, and an airport employee later delivered it to her in the restricted zone before she boarded a plane.

At the time, Tam launched a signature campaign with three international aviation organisations to demand clarification on appropriate luggage check-in procedures. At least 30,000 signatures were collected.

Additional reporting by Tony Cheung