Heung Yee Kuk rally outside Hong Kong Legislative Council scaled back drastically

Analyst sees decision as a slap in the face for new leader of rural body, who some village chiefs says is too weak in defending their interests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 October, 2016, 8:00am

A planned 10,000-strong rally outside the Legislative Council complex by villagers to show support for their leader-turned-legislator, Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, is falling apart, with the size shrinking to less than one-tenth of the original target.

The Heung Yee Kuk, which represents rural interests, is organising the rally for Wednesday morning to “celebrate” its chairman taking the oath of office that day as a lawmaker.

Some analysts saw the scaling back of the rally as a signal of Lau’s inability to build up his authority more than a year after taking over the kuk chairmanship from his father, Lau Wong-fat, who stepped down for health reasons.

At a closed-door session of the kuk last month, some rural leaders urged Lau to take a stronger stance in defending rural interests in the legislature as they endorsed efforts to mobilise 10,000 villagers to “surround” the Legislative Council to show their support.

The rural leaders also wanted to take the opportunity to protest against legislator Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who they said had used the controversy over a public housing project at Wang Chau in Yuen Long to smear villagers.

Chu’s election platform was partly aimed at exposing alleged collusion between “the government, business, rural and triad forces”.

The kuk’s plan was that the rally would start at around 10am and last until the end of the first day of the Legco meeting.

We are there to show support for our chairman and celebrate his debut in the legislature. It is not a protest
Li Yiu-ban, kuk official

Li Yiu-ban, a kuk ex-officio executive councillor who is helping to organise the rally, said they had revised the plan because they did not want to cause the public too much trouble.

“We are now expecting several hundred people,” Li said.

“There is no question of villagers not wanting to go out to show support to our chairman. But apart from us, there may be other groups staging other protests outside the Legislative Council. If we send 10,000 people there, it may cause inconvenience to others.”

Li maintained the rally would be peaceful and would now last only about one hour.

“We are there to show support for our chairman and celebrate his debut in the legislature. It is not a protest. And we do not want to see trouble.”

Lau was elected uncontested in the September elections to represent the kuk. The seat was previously held by his father, who was kuk chairman for 35 years.

An expert in rural politics, Dr Bruce Kwong Kam-kwan, a co-investigator with the Hong Kong Transition Project – a research centre at Baptist University – said: “Few would believe that an event endorsed by the kuk to show support for its chairman would be scaled back because rural people do not want to cause inconvenience to the public.

“It is clearly not giving face to Kenneth Lau.”

A kuk member who attended last month’s closed-door meeting said: “Many rural heads were unhappy that the chairman was too weak in defending rural interests. Some even shouted at him [at the meeting].

“Then, someone proposed mobilising 10,000 people at the Legislative Council to show support for him. I can’t even remember who seconded the motion. But the chairman said it was passed. That was how such a decision came about. Now it has become a joke,” said the kuk member, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Lau could not be reached for comment.