Andrew Fung Wai-kwong quit the Democratic Party yesterday amid criticism that he had betrayed it by allegedly applying for an undersecretary post.
In a two-page letter to party members, Fung (pictured) said he would miss the party he helped to found 18 years ago but would not confirm or deny whether he had applied for one of the posts. He said he did not want recent controversies to harm the party's image, but he said the party's platform did not restrict members from joining the government.
He said the call for Democrats not to join chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying's cabinet was only a remark made by 'the party's big brother after losing the race for the top job', referring to party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who ran for chief executive.
Fung said the stance was not discussed within the party, and he found it strange that it had became a 'supreme principle'. He also hit back at Ho's accusation that he had betrayed the party and said he had no confidential information with which he could betray the party.
However, Ho said it was not a stance made after the election but that it was discussed two years ago. He said party rules made clear that a member must obtain the party's approval before applying for a public post.
'There is only one reason why [Fung] is leaving: because he knew he cannot follow the regulation, and he can only choose to leave,' Ho said.
Southern district councillor Lo Kin-hei, one of four young Democrats who applied for political assistant posts 'to test the fairness of the recruitment exercise', admitted negligence in not informing the party.
Party leaders will meet to discuss whether to accept Fung's resignation. Ho said he would recommend acceptance as soon as possible.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the controversy showed that it required perseverance for activists to stay in a pan-democratic party because of the limited career prospects. It also showed how difficult it is for the incoming chief executive to recruit pan-democrats.
Meanwhile, a five-member panel led by Leung continued to interview some of the 39 candidates, shortlisted from about 300 applicants, to fill the 14 undersecretary posts.
Leung's office refused to disclose how many were screened, but they included Civic Party founder and welfare policy specialist Chua Hoi-wai, who is keen to serve in the labour and welfare bureau. He resigned from the party on Wednesday.