Waiting for Uncle Fat: Was Hong Kong lawmaker really to blame for Legco walkout?

There are questions about whether Lau Wong-fat was the real reason why so many lawmakers walked out, or whether he just took the blame

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 2:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 6:43pm

Overnight, the whole "Waiting for Uncle Fat" controversy has suddenly become curiouser and curiouser.

Just as the dust was settling on this increasingly unlikely reason that pro-establishment lawmakers offered to explain their bungled walkout during last week's electoral reform vote, it turns out that "Uncle Fat" - the nickname of rural patriarch Lau Wong-fat - may never have been a factor. His name never featured in an exchange of leaked WhatsApp messages among the pro-establishment lawmakers discussing how to take control of last week's historic vote.

Last Thursday, 31 pro-establishment lawmakers walked out of the chamber seconds before the vote on electoral reform was to take place. It was an attempt to force a suspension of the meeting. Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung of the pro-establishment Business and Professionals Alliance said they did so to wait for Uncle Fat to arrive and vote in a show of unity.

In the end, they failed and the package garnered an embarrassing eight votes. So was "Waiting for Uncle Fat" a big fat yarn?

That is one curious question the camp will have to answer.

But the WhatsApp messages show not only that Lau did not feature in the exchange but he also did not mind being named as the reason for the blunder - or so it would appear until another turn of events on Wednesday.

Late that evening, his son, Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, issued a statement to say that his father was not quitting Legco and that his health was improving.

So the second curious question is: Why were the rumours swirling around? Was it because the blame game was deepening in the pro-establishment camp?

Indeed, radical pan-democrat lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip told the Post yesterday that when he bumped into Lau soon after the botched vote, the rural kingpin bitterly admitted being used as an excuse. "I get used to it," was how Lau replied to Chan.

Perhaps Uncle Fat decided enough was enough. He had to stop allowing the rumours to swirl - and become fact.

Now comes the third curious question. Why did Uncle Fat not rule out quitting Legco in a recent newspaper interview, only to issue a denial on Wednesday?

Why the flip-flop? Both Chan and former civil service chief Joseph Wong Wing-ping suspect his departure was halted by Beijing. "Beijing and the liaison office would not like to see him make this controversial move," Chan figured. Wong agreed, saying: "There's no reason for Lau to take the blame by resigning."

But for Lau, resignation is no simple matter. He needs to ensure his son's succession to Legco while ensuring the kuk - a key voting bloc for the pro-establishment camp - remains united. And given his stature, nobody in the camp can push him out.

Meanwhile, "Waiting for Uncle Fat's … next move" may well be the town's new political game.