Liberal Party chief Tommy Cheung says joining Exco doesn’t mean he’ll become ‘Leung fan’

Veteran politician says he will consider candidates’ platforms before deciding whom to support in chief executive race

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 11:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 10:22pm

Liberal Party chairman Tommy Cheung Yu-yan has defended his decision to join the Executive Council, stressing that he will not become a government yes-man and insisting he will consider all chief executive candidates’ election platforms before deciding whom to support.

The veteran politician also said he was surprised by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s invitation to join his cabinet, revealing that the invitation was extended when Leung asked to meet him at the Government House, though Cheung had thought they would be discussing other matters.

“Joining Exco does not mean I will become a ‘Leung fan’. I am doing this for every Hongkonger,” Cheung said during an RTHK programme on Monday, using a Chinese term referring to people loyal to the current chief executive.

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Last week, Leung made the surprise move to appoint Cheung and Martin Liao Cheung-kong – convenor of the Legislative Council’s pro-establishment camp – as Exco members. The appointments came just four months before the chief executive election and were thus seen as an attempt to consolidate Leung’s political support base so he could seek a second term more smoothly.

Cheung’s appointment came as a big surprise because James Tien Pei-chun, the Liberal Party’s former leader and party linchpin, had publicly declared his “ABC” advocacy – “Anyone But CY” in the coming chief executive election. Tien even called on Cheung to step down as party chairman as he had failed to inform him and other leading members about the appointment beforehand.

On Monday, Cheung said there were bound to be diverging views from different parties on various matters. Tien made his comments because he felt that was in the best interests of the party, Cheung said.

“But I also believe that I am doing this for the party,” Cheung added.

He was not worried his decision would lead to a split within the organisation, saying that many party members had congratulated him.

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He went on to say that when Tien himself was appointed as an Exco member many years ago, he did not consult Cheung beforehand either. Tien resigned from Exco in 2003 when the government was pushing to enact the controversial Article 23 security laws.

Cheung, a veteran businessman, said he aimed to bring the voices of the middle class and the business sector into Exco. As the catering sector lawmaker also has a vote on the 1,200-member Election Committee that will pick the city’s next chief executive, he was asked if he would blindly support Leung for a second term.

“[The catering sector] will look at the election platforms carefully. If the platform goes against our beliefs, even if we have always supported someone, how could we show our support this time?” Cheung said.

Speaking later on a Commercial Radio programme, Cheung said he was invited to join Exco after swearing in as lawmaker in October. Leung invited him to the Government House one day for what he thought would be a meeting to talk about various policies.

Leung did not explain to Cheung why he wanted to have him in his cabinet, and Cheung did not ask him.