Paul Zimmerman is not without appeal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 2:55am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 2:55am

Loyalists in the legislature supposedly gave the opposition a taste of their own medicine over Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah. Using filibustering and other manoeuvres, the pro-establishment lawmakers last week scuppered an opposition plan to summon the justice secretary to Legco for another grilling over illegal structures at her luxury homes.

In reality, pan-democrats are more worried about the by-election next month, in which one of their candidates has a few long-standing issues over illegal structures at home. Dragging out the public relations disaster for Cheng and the government would only invite retaliation from the rival camp. So, in a way, rather than risking mutually assured destruction, a détente has been reached between the two camps.

City’s embattled justice chief let off the hook as pan-dems back down on illegal structures scandal

Running on the opposition ticket for a functional constituency seat, urban development activist Paul Zimmerman has confessed to having the structures at his home in Sai Kung for a decade. While Cheng claimed she knew nothing about the structures because she had been too busy at work, he knew about it all along but preferred to keep them anyway. It’s a bit ironic that he is running for the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape sector, which has a lot to do with building construction, legal or otherwise.

But it’s pointless to debate which one of the two has done worse. It’s estimated one in four private homes have some illegal structures, so most of us are throwing stones in glass houses. Cheng has already survived two no-confidence motions, thanks to help from the loyalist camp. It’s a bit rich for the pan-dems to complain about “filibustering and dragging out” – their own Legco specialities – when the whole saga has become a sideshow.

Green light for by-election replacement for Agnes Chow but another young activist barred from contest

The opposition pretty much has a sure-win next month with its geographical constituency candidates Edward Yiu Chung-yim for the Kowloon West seat and Au Nok-hin for Hong Kong Island. But Zimmerman is running against Tony Tse Wai-chuen, an independent former lawmaker who is trying to stage a comeback and has strong support from within the professional sector.

Zimmerman, though, is not without appeal. He is politically moderate, and is primarily focused on environmentally and people-friendly urban developments. He and his associates have often come up with sensible ideas about controversial government developments such as the Central Market and harbourfront developments. But they are usually ignored. A Legco platform will give them a stronger voice.

It would also be good to have a more racially diverse Legco.