Group plays down chance of liberal split

Linda Choy

The newly inaugurated political body, The Frontier, yesterday pledged to work with other political groups for democracy and human rights, playing down the possibility of a split in the liberal camp.

Speaking after the first general meeting, the leadership was keen to assure that the group would seek co-operation with other political groups whenever their interests coincided.

Executive committee member Lau Chin-shek, a Democratic Party legislator, said he had become an initiator of the body because he believed in defending those principles in the run-up to the transition.

He sidestepped a question on whether his participation in The Frontier was because the Democratic Party had failed to fulfil his vision of democracy.

'The Frontier hopes that all those who support its beliefs can take part in it regardless of party affiliation,' he said.

Mr Lau said that in the current political situation, there was a need to ally with people of the same beliefs.

He did not think he had to withdraw from the Democratic Party because The Frontier was a political organisation, not a party.

Apart from Mr Lau, another four legislators - Emily Lau Wai-hing, Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Yiu-chung - were elected to the 11-strong executive committee.

They said The Frontier would strongly defend its beliefs, but had no plans to take radical courses of action.

Communication with China should be conducted on condition that Beijing was willing to respect all Hong Kong people instead of a single party, said Mr Leung.

Ms Lau said: 'We hope those who agree with our goals can work with us. We hope to expand the liberal camp and we hope they [the liberals] will extend their hand of friendship.' In a display of friendship and unity, the Democratic Party was represented by party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming and vice-chairman Dr Yeung Sum.

Dr Yeung welcomed the formation of the new body.

He dismissed suggestions the establishment of The Frontier was a sign the Democrats were not firm or radical enough. 'I think if you look at our election platform in 1995, it was stated clearly that we opt for universal franchise for the [election of the] chief executive and the SAR legislature. So fighting for democracy is always a job for our party - there's no difference between us and The Frontier in this aspect,' he said.

Invitations were extended to Chinese and Hong Kong officials including Xinhua (the New China News Agency) chief Zhou Nan and the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Nicholas Ng Wing-fui. None attended.

Zhang Junsheng , Xinhua deputy director, said he had received an invitation but was too busy to attend. He said Mr Zhou had been in Guangzhou until yesterday afternoon.