Democratic rivals head for Legco showdown

Quinton Chan

HONG KONG'S two largest pro-democracy political parties are heading for a major clash in the forthcoming Legislative Council polls.

The Democratic Party and the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) are now expected to fight each other for at least five seats in the September 17 elections.

It follows both sides' failure to co-operate over tomorrow's election of the Urban Council (Urbco) vice-chairman.

Experts warned this would severely harm both parties' chances of success at the ballot box, and give the pro-Beijing camp a chance to win more seats.

The ADPL, which has six Urbco seats, refuses to support Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming for the vice-chairmanship in a move assuring success for his rival, pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong (DAB) member Ip Kwok-chung It is understood this is in return for the pro-Beijing party's support for ADPL member Mok Ying-fan's election to the Legislative Council through the council's functional constituency seat currently held by Elsie Tu.

The Democratic Party has accused the ADPL of forging an alliance with local leftists.

'It seems they are using every means they can to secure a seat in Legco,' Mr Li said.

But ADPL Secretary-General Wong Chun-kay replied: 'Just because we don't support the Democratic Party doesn't mean we don't support democracy,' he said.

Mr Wong accused the rivals of adopting an intransigent attitude during talks to try to resolve the issue.

'Their attitude at the negotiating table is very tough,' he said.

Among the seats where the two parties are now expected to fight each other are Wong Tai Sin, where ADPL vice-chairman Liu Shing-lee will challenge the Democratic Party's Mak Hoi-wah. In Mongkok, the ADPL's Daniel Wong Kwok-tung will stand against Democratic Party legislator James To kun-sun.

In the New Territories, the ADPL's Yim Tin-sang is expected to contest the Democratic Party's Albert Ho Chun-yan in Tuen Mun, while the party's other vice-chairman Leung Kwong-cheung will challenge Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat in Kwai Tsing.

It is understood the Democratic Party is even considering fielding a candidate in Shamshuipo, to challenge ADPL chairman Frederick Fung Kin-kee in his stronghold.

The two parties are also expected to fight it out in several functional constituencies.

Electoral expert Kam Ping-kwong said such contests would split the support of the pro-democracy camp and favour pro-China rivals.

'If both sides fight each other, then the pro-Beijing candidates stand a good chance,' he said.

But the City University lecturer said such splits were almost inevitable.

'There has been a big difference between the parties for a long time. When the ADPL is struggling hard to be a bigger party, such fights are hard to avoid.'