Hong Kong has a new major political party.
Legislator Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee yesterday inaugurated the New People's Party, pledging to chart a new path for a 'quality democratic system' and economic growth.
Ministers - including Tsang Tak-sing, Michael Suen Ming-yeung, Edward Yau Tang-wah, and Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - were eager to shake hands and pose for pictures with Ip and deputies Michael Tien Puk-sun and Dr Louis Shih Tai-cho.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who was not present, sent a bouquet to congratulate Ip on the launch of the new party, which has got off to a humble start with a membership of 266.
Ip said she appreciated officials' presence, but added: 'Business is business. Their coming here today will not affect our stance toward the government policies.'
Former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who defeated Ip in the 2007 Legislative Council by-election, also attended. Chan said a new political party in Hong Kong could encourage more people to take part in politics.
Liberal Party defector and now a vice-chairman of the New People's Party, Michael Tien, said: 'Many people are apathetic. They cannot find a party to truly represent them ... Hong Kong needs a rational and level-headed party that is willing to speak for the citizens.'
No Liberal Party leaders were seen yesterday. However, senior figures from the pro-democracy camp - including Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of the Civic Party, Wong Yuk-man of the League of Social Democrats, and James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party - did show up.
Widely regarded as a pro-establishment legislator, Ip said she had not discussed the formation of a party with Beijing, or sought its endorsement. But among the 15 party advisers are some pro-Beijing figures, including Business and Professionals Federation chairman Sir David Akers-Jones, and local National People's Congress deputies Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun and Bernard Chan.
Ip dismissed speculation that she had formed the party to pave the way for her running for chief executive. 'I have not thought of other things.'
Meanwhile, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said the party was strong despite 'young turks' breaking away last month to form the NeoDemocrats. Vice-chairman Sin Chung-kai said the loss of 32 members over the past year was offset by 73 new members. 'We will field 130 candidates for the coming district council election,' he added.
Heavyweights came out to support Hong Kong's new political party
But despite the high-profile backing, the New People's Party currently has a membership of just: 266