The rift in the fractious pan-democratic camp is poised to deepen after a war of words between the bloc's would-be candidates for chief executive in a televised debate yesterday.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said there were 'fundamental differences' between his vision of democracy and that of Frederick Fung Kin-kee - lawmaker for the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood - after Fung denounced him for attacking developers.
Protests from the floor made the 90-minute debate more heated. Dozens of supporters of the radical League of Social Democrats and People's Power booed the candidates throughout the event. Some dressed as clowns to mock Ho and Fung for participating in an election they have no hope of winning, while others threw paper planes on to the stage.
It was their second televised debate ahead of today's primary vote to choose who will run for the city's top job against the two establishment candidates, ex-chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen and former Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying. The 1,200-member Election Committee, on which pan-democrats have 205 votes, will choose the next chief executive on March 25.
'Initially I thought we shared the same ideas on challenging the small-circle election and had only minor differences on how to achieve our goals,' Ho said. 'However, after these debates, I've found there are fundamental differences.'
Ho said he was shocked to hear that Fung disagreed with his plan to declare war against the dominance of the developers and the deepening wealth gap in Hong Kong.
In their previous debate on Tuesday, Fung attacked Ho for merely sloganeering without proposing any policy. He said he was also concerned Ho's slogans would deepen social conflicts and intensify hatred against the rich.
Fung said yesterday he was sad to hear himself labelled 'pro-establishment' just because he disagreed with Ho's slogans.
'I had hoped there would be more tolerance [of different voices] among pan-democrats and no labelling of others when there are disagreements,' Fung said.
Ho hit back. 'It's not a race about policy platforms but the principle of democracy,' he said. 'We have to stand firm against developers' hegemony because that's the source of social conflicts.
'Wake up. We have no chance of winning [on March 25] at all,' Ho told Fung.
Fung also accused the camp's radical wings of turning to violence.
'In recent years we have seen the growth of radicals who use verbal violence and even physical violence. This won't help the progress of democracy. In fact, it will scare people off,' he said.
'Participating in a small-circle election doesn't mean that I agree with the establishment. It only serves as a platform for me to push for democracy.'
The pan-democrat bloc will decide who will represent them, based on public opinion surveys and the results of tomorrow's electronic poll, for which 74 polling stations will be set up outside MTR stations.
All adults with permanent ID cards will be able to lodge their votes electronically at the booths from 10am to 7pm. The result of the primary election is expected to be released tonight.