POLITICS

Heung Yee Kuk chairman steps into father’s shoes saying he’ll seek his advice

After being elected unopposed as chairman of the rural body, the son of strongman 'Uncle Fat' says he will consult his father if necessary

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 June, 2015, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

The new leader of the Heung Yee Kuk has rejected accusations that the powerful rural body is being run as a family endeavour after he succeeded his ailing father.

Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, 49, took over from his father, rural patriarch Lau Wong-fat, 79, popularly known as "Uncle Fat", who stepped down citing poor health after 35 years in the top seat of the advisory body, which represents the interests of indigenous residents of the New Territories.

The younger Lau will lead the 143-member organisation for a term of four years after running uncontested as chairman at a kuk general meeting.

While stressing his independence in running the kuk, the younger Lau said he would still consult his father when needed.

"[My father] is still a kuk member and will take part in the kuk business. I do not see it as him holding court from behind the scenes. He has rich experience and it will be appropriate for any one of us in the kuk to seek his views when it is needed."

He dismissed claims he was installed by his father, saying: "I am over 18 and I submitted the election form on my own."

The younger Lau served as a district councillor between 2000 and 2011.

He said it was too early to discuss his priorities and he would consult his two deputies and fellow kuk members first. And he would not comment on whether he would run for the kuk's Legislative Council seat, also held by his father, next year.

Daniel Lam Wai-keung, 66, and Cheung Hok-ming, 62, were returned uncontested as vice-chairmen.

An expert in rural politics, academic Dr Bruce Kwong Kam-kwan, said he expected Lau to keep a low profile rather than pushing for big reforms to modernise the kuk.

"The young Lau may face some resistance even if he wants to make some changes. He is surrounded by rural elders. And in rural politics, age counts," Kwong said. "But so long as [his father] is still alive, the other elders won't dare to play tricks against him.

"But as to how the young Lau will manage relations with his fellow elders in the rural community, that is not an easy task."

In a speech at the meeting, "Uncle Fat" thanked fellow members for their support and trust over the years, and said: "Now I have stepped down as the kuk chairman. But my love for the rural community will not fade and I hope to be able to continue making contributions."

In a letter to kuk colleagues last week, he said age was the decisive factor in his decision not to stand for re-election.

"I am old and have done what I should do," he said. "I will most likely not seek re-election to the Legislative Council, either. It is a really tough job."

Cheung thanked "Uncle Fat" for his contributions, in particular his fight to insert an article in the Basic Law to ensure indigenous interests remained protected after the handover.