Andrew Leung set to become Legco president as pro-establishment bloc rejects rival’s call for primary

Functional constituency lawmaker likely to defeat democratic caucus candidate James To due to camp’s majority in legislature

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 October, 2016, 1:34am

A pro-establishment lawmaker who has kept his seat unopposed to represent the industrial sector since 2004 is set to be elected ­president of the new Legislative Council, though some of his allies worry his lack of a bigger mandate could be a “ticking time bomb”.

The government’s political ­allies in the legislature endorsed Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen at an internal meeting yesterday as their candidate to succeed ­outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

The approval by the pro­establishment camp came ­despite strong objections by two of its members, Michael Tien Puk-sun and Paul Tse Wai-chun, both directly elected lawmakers who had also eyed the top job.

Most of the lawmakers who ­attended yesterday’s meeting also rejected Tien’s proposal to hold a primary by secret ballot ahead of the nomination process ending tomorrow, citing a lack of time.

Leung is expected to beat a challenge by the Democratic ­Party’s James To Kun-sun ­because of the pro-establishment camp’s majority in the 70-strong legislature, but that would go against the tradition of having ­directly elected lawmakers take the helm of the council.

“Every lawmaker enjoys the same status,” Leung said when asked about his trade-based functional constituency seat being seen as a small-circle mandate.

The former chairman of ­Legco’s house committee also ­admitted he had given up his ­British passport recently to qualify for the post.

Pan-democrats have criticised Leung’s hardline style of chairing past meetings, but he hit back ­yesterday, saying: “Give me facts [to prove] that I am a hardliner.”

How Hong Kong’s Legislative Council chooses its leader

Tien said he would pull out of the race for the sake of the camp’s interests, but insisted the post would be better held by someone with a bigger mandate.

“Some attendees reminded [Leung] to be more careful when making judgments in future as the democratic caucus might easily cast doubt on [them] ... given his background,” Tien said.

His worries were shared by Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who called it a “ticking time bomb”, given the potential for conflict in a divided Legco.

“Leung once expelled lawmakers from the Legco chamber without prior warning when he was acting president in previous meetings … I believe the ­conflict [between the two camps] might escalate if he becomes president,” veteran democrat To said.

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

Both To and Leung will attend a special forum next Tuesday to answer colleagues’ questions ahead of the election the day after, when the winner will be decided by secret ballot.

Separately, the pro-establishment camp made a U-turn over allowing accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung, a pan-democrat, to be the vice-chairman of the ­finance committee, the key panel that scrutinises government funding requests. Martin Liao Cheung-kong, who was elected convenor of the Beijing-friendly bloc, ­revealed they were now inclined to hold on to the post instead of letting their rivals have it, as ­suggested by ­earlier reports.

The bloc has retained the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the finance committee for the past two years, during which the pan-democrats staged multiple filibusters to delay or block funding for controversial public works projects they ­opposed.