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Hong Kong political reform

Bickering escalates in pro-Beijing camp over bungled Legco vote on Hong Kong political reform

Recriminations fly among the pro-Beijing camp over bungled vote on electoral reform package that's been described as an 'embarrassment'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 June, 2015, 2:45am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 10:13am

Finger-pointing and bickering escalated yesterday among the Legislative Council's Beijing-loyalist camp over Thursday's bungled vote on electoral reform that has left the government's political allies facing their biggest crisis in recent years.

Some called for an explanation while others demanded lessons be learned after the confusing walkout that saw the controversial blueprint for the 2017 chief executive election receive only eight "yes" votes, while the pan-democrats sarcastically thanked Beijing loyalists for their "support" in blocking the resolution.

The fiasco has been described by analysts as an "embarrassment" for Beijing, and the central government's liaison office has been meeting or phoning pro-establishment lawmakers about it over the last two days.

Much of the blame has been placed on business representative and Executive Council member Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, seen as a key instigator of the walkout in which 31 lawmakers left the chamber in an attempt to force a suspension of the meeting so that Lam's Business and Professionals Alliance colleague, Lau Wong-fat, could make it for the vote on the Beijing-decreed package.

During the drama, seconds before the historic vote was due to proceed, another pro-establishment heavyweight, Ip Kwok-him of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, stood up and ushered everyone to the exit. He apologised for his part yesterday.

WATCH: The day the reform package was defeated in Legco

Nine pro-establishment lawmakers, including five Liberal Party members, stayed behind out of confusion, and only eight of them voted in favour of the package, giving the rest of the world the false impression there was no support for the blueprint.

The package would not have secured the two-thirds majority needed in any case, as all 27 pan-democrats in the 70-strong legislature kept their promise to block it, and medical representative Leung Ka-lau also voted against.

The disappointment among Beijing loyalists was highlighted by New People's Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. She lost her tough composure during a radio show yesterday, openly sobbing as she lamented her failure to cast her ballot.

Apologising for the second time in two days, Lam also fought back tears. In a WhatsApp message circulated among pro-Beijing allies, Lam described Thursday as "the saddest day" of his 11 years in Legco. "I have learnt a very painful lesson," he said.

Earlier, three key members of the pro-establishment camp - the Federation of Trade Unions' Wong Kwok-kin, Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan, and the DAB's Ann Chiang Lai-wan - demanded accountability for the voting debacle.

"I am very upset that the decision-makers have yet to come out and apologise," Wong said.

Chung was offended by those who said it was "unfortunate" the Liberals had stayed behind to vote instead of joining the majority in their walkout.

"That completely twisted right and wrong," Chung said.

As damage control, an advert signed by 33 pro-establishment lawmakers was published in seven Chinese-language newspapers yesterday. In an English version published in today's South China Morning Post, they said their plan "was foiled by gaps in communication".

Wong said Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had told them to "look forward" in a meeting with the camp yesterday.

The FTU would conduct a months-long remedial campaign immediately as it had "received lots of calls and messages from supporters asking why we would be absent from the historic vote", he said. Independent lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, also a key Beijing loyalist, expressed concern the fallout could affect the camp's prospects in forthcoming elections.

Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa said he was disappointed, but did not mention the walkout. People's Daily blamed the pan-democrats for "obstructing democratic development".

Additional reporting by Phila Siu and Gary Cheung