Another blow for moderate politics in Hong Kong as academic quits think tank

Political scientist says Path of Democracy think tank has become too much like a party

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 4:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 4:18pm

City University political scientist Ray Yep Kin-man has quit the Path of Democracy, the latest in a series of high-profile resignations that have plagued the middle-of-the-road think tank.

The group was co-founded by former Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah to seek a “third road” in Hong Kong’s politics and to push for electoral reform to achieve popular ballot for the city’s leader.

Yep’s departure raises questions about whether there is room for moderate groups to thrive in a politically divided society like Hong Kong.

“I think the Path of Democracy is moving towards a quasi political party or group. And my interest is always about think tank development,” Yep told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday.

“I still see the merit of the strategy of engaging Beijing and the relevance of moderate politics.”

Yep, associate head of the university’s department of public policy, was formerly the think tank’s co-convenor (research).

Former Hong Kong lawmaker Ronny Tong urges mainland Chinese officials to relaunch political reform

Tong said Yep had informed him of the decision to quit on Wednesday morning.

“Dr Yep believes that the Path of Democracy has become too much like a political party ... and he would rather keep his political neutrality as an academic,” Tong told the Post.

“But I am not worried about the think tank’s development, because we are still launching two programmes and raising funds,” he added, referring to its proposed opinion poll and academy for politicians.

Tong launched his think tank in June 2015, weeks before he quit the Civic Party and the Legislative Council over his disappointment at the voting down of the government’s package to introduce a popular ballot in the 2017 chief executive election. Tong also opposed the package but lamented that his camp had failed to come up with a feasible proposal to lobby Beijing.

However, the think tank’s development has not been smooth. Its two candidates, Gary Wong Chi-him and Raymond Mak Ka-chun, were both defeated in the Legco polls last September, and three of its core members have left in recent months to join the campaign offices of chief executive contenders.

Chief executive Dr Derek Yuen Mi-chang joined former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah’s team, while co-convenor (advocacy) Joseph Lau Pui-wing and governor Laurence Li Lu-jen joined former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s campaign office.

Tong said: “It seems we are involved in all the elections ... but they promised to come back to help us, so I am not in a hurry to fill the vacancies yet.”