Infighting in Hong Kong’s pro-establishment camp emerges over Legco presidency

Three lawmakers in tussle for top post, with one calling for a primary

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 September, 2016, 9:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 12:27am

The scramble for key posts in Hong Kong’s newly elected legislature has begun with infighting among three pro-establishment lawmakers over the presidency.

One of them is calling for a primary election to avoid spreading votes thin and handing victory to the pan-democrats and localists, who, despite a low chance of winning, also plan to field one candidate for the post in the first Legco meeting on October 12.

Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People’s Party said he will run for the top post and called for a primary. He says the Legco chief should have the people’s mandate and be one returned by a geographical constituency.

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Meanwhile, pro-establishment independent Paul Tse Wai-chun made a high-profile announcement on TV yesterday, accusing front-runner Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen of being “high-handed” and “unreasonable”.

Some influential veterans in the pro-establishment camp consider Leung, who has been the Legislative Council No. 2 as the house committee chairman, to be a suitable successor to retiring president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

But the lawmaker from the Business and Professionals Alliance, who was returned uncontested to an industrial-sector seat, often “offended” pan-democrats with his uncompromising style, especially in dealing with filibusters, Tse said. “After all, a person’s character and experience – and whether he has learnt to be humble through a direct election – are hard to change overnight,” the solicitor-turned-politician said on a TVB show.

Both the government and Beijing’s liaison office in the city had their views on the matter, Tse said, and “we will take reference of their views but we shouldn’t adopt them completely”.

Leung could not be reached for comment yesterday, while his party colleague Lo Wai-kwok continued to voice support for him.

Beijing needs to temper its high-handed attitude towards Hong Kong

Outgoing senior lawmakers of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, such as Tam Yiu-chung, have named Leung as the best choice due to his experience.

A pro-government legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most colleagues in the camp would favour Leung as they found Tse to be “fickle”.

“There were times he differed with us on certain issues,” he said. “We don’t have enough trust in him and worry he might incline towards the opposition camp.”

With more pan-democrats and localists in Legco – their number has grown from 27 to 30 in the 70-member chamber – Leung would be forced to abandon his uncompromising style anyway, he said. “Now the opposition have 30 lawmakers, they need to get only five votes from our side to turn things in their favour. So we have to be careful not to push things to the extreme.”