Hong Kong’s Legco democrats agree on their pick for president

Pro-establishment camp still tussling over who should bid to replace Jasper Tsang in hot seat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 September, 2016, 11:07pm

The pro-democracy camp on Wednesday put forward its most senior legislator to vie for the presidency of the new Legislative Council, as pro-establishment infighting over the post continued.

James To Kun-sun, of the Democratic Party, told the press he would run for the post after the first meeting of the democratic caucus, in which no one objected to his bid.

“I am confident I can secure more support,” To, a solicitor and a lawmaker since 1991, said. “I will be lobbying all the other 69 ­colleagues in Legco.”

His announcement came as Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, the front runner for the post, faced criticism – including from two of his pro-establishment allies who said he lacked a mandate.

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The Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker had been tipped to succeed outgoing president Japser Tsang Yok-sing, with the blessing of Beijing’s liaison ­office in Hong Kong.

To described Leung as “having a ferocious temper”.

“We’ve seen how he kicked people out of the chamber when he was acting president,” he said. “I feel that even his colleagues in the camp find him unbearable.”

With the democratic caucus controlling only 30 of 70 seats, a To victory is unlikely, with Beijing loyalists expected to field only one candidate eventually, despite the current tussle for the nomination.

Leung’s party had been fully confident that he would grab the title, with reports suggesting it did not even assign a seat for Leung in the Legco chamber when arranging the seating plan. The president has a distinct seat.

That reported move annoyed Paul Tse Wai-chun and Michael Tien Puk-sun, who formed a united front against Leung on a ­radio talk show on Wednesday.

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Both winners of direct elections, they were uncomfortable with Leung’s functional constituency background, especially his seat in the industrial (first) sector being uncontested since 2004.

Some organisations could ban fair competition in the race, said Tse, though he refused to say whether he was referring to the liaison office.

He said the office had shown concerns on the matter.

The independent said if his colleagues didn’t address his ­worries he would “be less active, and more resistant”, an apparent threat that he might go along with the bloc’s consensus less readily.

Tien said: “Directly elected lawmakers [enjoy support] across social classes, and they are under tremendous pressure to be ­impartial.”

But the New People’s Party legislator said he wouldn’t run if there was more than one pro­establishment candidate in the race. Leung had turned down an invitation to be on the same show.

At Wednesday’s meeting the democratic caucus – an official name for which has yet to be agreed – also finalised the candidates for the No 2 and No 3 ­positions in Legco.

The Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok will run to lead the House ­Committee, and Professional Commons’ Kenneth Leung to lead the Finance Committee.

Of the camp’s 30 lawmakers, 27 had agreed to go to the ­meeting, and 21 showed up.

The three who declined the ­invitation were localists Sixtus “Baggio” Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching – both of Youngspiration – and Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai.