Howard Lam saga will make pan-democrat battle over West Kowloon checkpoint even harder, analysts say
Academic Chung Kim-wah says political rivals will take full advantage of mistakes by pan-democrats, who will pay a disproportionately high price
Democrat Howard Lam Tsz-kin’s strange tale over the past week has made the camp’s battle against the government’s controversial West Kowloon border checkpoint plan even tougher, political watchers say.
Several pro-democracy lawmakers, mostly from the Civic Party, have argued that the kidnap and torture claims made by Lam would erode public trust over the so-called co-location plan, which will allow national laws to be enforced by mainland officers in part of the West Kowloon terminus of the high-speed rail link to Guangzhou.
Twenty-two pan-democratic lawmakers even wrote to security chief John Lee Ka-chiu seeking a meeting with him in the wake of Lam’s claims. They said it was not the first time mainland agents had abducted people in the city, citing the missing booksellers.
But in a dramatic twist, Lam – who claimed he was abducted and tortured by mainland agents last week – was arrested early on Tuesday for misleading police.
“It will definitely make it more difficult for the pan-democrats to fight against the co-location proposal,” said Dr Chung Kim-wah, an assistant professor in Polytechnic University’s department of applied social sciences.
“The camp is in a weaker position [than their rivals] under the current political system and therefore it has to be very careful. Its rivals will surely take full advantage of their mistakes and the price they need to pay is going to be disproportionately high.”
Indeed, Global Times – a tabloid under Beijing’s mouthpiece People’s Daily – was quick to publish a commentary mocking Lam’s story, saying it left people “rolling in the aisles”.
Beijing-friendly groups on Wednesday held separate protests at the Civic Party’s main office, police headquarters and the Sheung Shui office of Democrat Lam Cheuk-ting, who joined Howard Lam at the press conference.
Chung said it was an uphill battle for pan-democrats to fight against the co-location plan, which has been touted as bringing convenience to travellers.
But he said it had just become tougher as the public might not easily believe their arguments after the incident.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit said the turn of events did not affect his opposition to the joint checkpoint plan.
Those concerns, he said, were “not triggered by Lam’s claims and would not be eased following his arrest and the police investigation into him.”
“Even if one day we have to say we do not believe Lam’s story, it does not mean we have to believe in [Chief Executive] Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor,” Leong said.
Asked if his party was too quick to believe the claims by Lam, Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho, who said Lam’s case would erode public trust in the co-location plan, argued that such worries would still be valid even if the saga did not happen.
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the credibility of pan-democrat parties would be hampered by the incident, particularly the Civic Party which has attempted to link the case with co-location.
Chung echoed that view, saying the parties should offer the public a stronger response to minimise the damage done, instead of a wishy-washy one.
Additional reporting by Kimmy Chung