My Take

James and Michael Tien are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Hong Kong politics

With Michael having a falling-out with New People’s Party chief Regina Ip, perhaps he can now have dinner with brother James of the Liberal Party at six

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 1:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 1:17am

The Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Hong Kong politics, the Tien brothers, have generated enough melodrama over the years that you hardly need TVB’s nightly soap operas.

There has been sibling rivalry, bitter fallouts and mutual criticism; and now, the tear-jerking finale, their reconciliation?

Bear with me, because you need a somewhat long memory to realise the full irony of Michael Tien Puk-sun’s latest criticism of his party boss, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.

Speaking as the vice-chairman, Tien said the chairwoman of the New People’s Party had a potential conflict of interest. That’s because, as a member of the Executive Council, Ip has a duty to support the government’s policies. That, in turn, compromises her ability to monitor and criticise the government as an elected lawmaker.

Isn’t that exactly what older brother James had said?

James said the New People’s Party was no better than other pro-establishment parties as long as Ip stayed on the government’s top policymaking body.

“If Ip quit Exco and dared to criticise the government, I would be afraid of them, because then we would be tapping the same [voter base],” he said in an interview with the Post last year.

Pro-Beijing party showing cracks in leadership as vice-chairman criticises Regina Ip’s ‘conflicting’ roles

Ip countered that every pro-establishment party had had a leader sitting in Exco. Well, that’s no defence of this long-standing but dubious government practice to co-opt friendly lawmakers.

And it’s not quite true anymore. Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, quit Exco this year to concentrate “on party affairs”.

If Lee can do it, why can’t Ip?

The two brothers are right. Now that they are on the same page, does it mean Michael will go back to the fold of the Liberals, his old party of which James is the honorary chairman and co-founder?

Certainly Michael’s days with the New People’s Party are numbered. When he tried to run for the post of president of the Legislative Council, Ip blew him off, supporting instead Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, his rival and favourite of the pro-establishment camp. His latest criticism of Ip looks like a tit for tat. Michael also said he and Ip rarely talked anymore because both were “very busy”. What, with party business?

As Tweedledum said to Tweedledee in Through the Looking Glass: “Let’s fight till six, and then have dinner.”