Maverick lawmaker Wong Yuk-man has announced his immediate resignation from People Power - the radical pan-democratic party he founded in 2011.
The surprise decision yesterday by the one of the most charismatic politicians in Hong Kong is likely to deal a huge blow to the city's radical movement, the party's leaders conceded. It would also leave the Alliance for True Democracy - a coalition formed of all pan-democratic lawmakers to fight for electoral reform - with 26 seats, although still able to retain its veto power in the Legislative Council.
Without warning, Wong sent an e-mail to chairman Christopher Lau Kar-hung yesterday morning informing him of his decision to leave the party's 15-strong executive committee.
Two other e-mails were sent to fellow lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip about leaving the party caucus and the Anti-CY Alliance, a coalition formed mainly by People Power supporters earlier this year.
Wong said his departure would "start today [yesterday]". He told online radio station MyRadio last night: "It was just a personal decision. How come it has become such big news?"
He said he had disagreements with the party on "beliefs" and quitting was "the only choice".
Chan, a close ally of Wong, said he was "totally astonished" to get the e-mail. He said Wong had not discussed it with him, despite their collaboration on a filibuster over the budget bill for the past three weeks.
"The fact that Wong quits People Power is going to deal a serious blow to the radical movement," he said. "It is also not doing any good to our fight for genuine universal suffrage as we need a united front."
Chan believed Wong's decision was partly related to his "personal feud" with Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, an online broadcaster and the party's major financial supporter, since March. Shiu has publicly stated his disappointment with Wong's vague stance towards the planned Occupy Central protest.
People Power's other lawmaker, Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, said Wong had expressed discontent to Lau over the party's stance on the Alliance for True Democracy.
Wong said he could not support setting up a nominating committee for universal suffrage in the 2017 chief executive poll, despite it being written in the Basic Law. Lau was more open to the idea, but insisted the proposal should also allow anyone who got 50,000 endorsements from 3.2 million voters citywide to become a candidate.
Lau said yesterday that he had been caught out by Wong's sudden decision. An emergency meeting was held last night.
"Wong has the power to rally supporters and it will definitely affect the development of the party," he said.
Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said the radical movement in Hong Kong had long been led by charismatic leaders. "They can win elections, but fail to find a proper system to develop the party," he said.
The career of political maverick Wong Yuk-man
2006: Established the League of Social Democrats with Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Chan Wai-yip and became its first chairman.
2008: Elected through Kowloon West in the Legislative Council election. In October, he threw a banana at then-chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen when he was reading a policy address in Legco.
2010: Resigned from Legco alongside four other lawmakers to trigger a "de facto referendum" on constitutional reform. He later led a campaign to challenge the Democratic Party, which negotiated with mainland authorities.
2011: Quit the League with Chan and their supporters and formed People Power.
2013: Split with long-time ally and financial supporter Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen and openly criticised chairman Christopher Lau Kar-hung.
Yesterday: Announced decision to quit People Power.
Topics: Wong Yuk-Man People Power