Hong Kong comeback kid Frederick Fung gets ready for the bad times

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 6:24pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2016, 9:07am

There is a saying in political circles about election defeat - politics is the only profession where there is life after death.

And for Frederick Fung Kin-kee, who lost his district council seat in the recent elections and is therefore unable to run for a Legislative Council "super seat" next year, his "resurrection" will not take too long - he is already preparing his comeback.

"I will not give up Lai Kok. I will not give up Sham Shui Po residents," said Fung, a veteran pan-democrat with the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, which Fung founded in 1986.

Now 62, Fung started trying his hand in politics during his university days.

He entered the University of Hong Kong in 1974 but was ousted a year later because he spent too much time organising social movements and failed his exams. He then joined the pressure group Society for Community Organisation.

In 1979, he flew to Britain to study and obtained an undergraduate degree in social policy and public administration at the University of Bradford in 1982. On his return to Hong Kong, he was elected to the now disbanded Urban Council in 1983. In 1991, he became a legislator through direct elections.

A moderate pan-democrat, he is known for his middle-of-the-road strategy of "simultaneously negotiating with and confronting" Beijing, which, in his words, is to try to keep contact with the mainland authorities so you will have a chance to convince them to listen to your views.

Such a middle-of-the-road stance is sometimes criticised as opportunistic and pulled him into controversy in the run-up to the 1997 handover.

In 1996, his association decided to allow members to join the provisional legislature, devised by Beijing as a temporary replacement for the Legislative Council formed in 1995 under British rule because Beijing was unhappy with the electoral reforms made by the last governor, Chris Patten.

Other pro-democracy groups boycotted the interim body.

Fung argued that the move would enable him to continue fighting for democracy within the new political establishment.

The association was also the only pro-democracy group at the time to join the preparatory committee - a body formed by Beijing to prepare for the 1997 transition.

Fung lost his Legislative Council seat in 1998. But he maintained that the "negotiating while confronting" tactic was not to blame.

"Is there a party which doesn't do that? It is just a matter of packaging. We have not packaged ourselves well enough," Fung said in a 1998 interview.

He made a comeback in the 2000 election. He expressed hope at the time that his association could get as many as five seats in the legislature in eight years. He was re-elected in the 2004, 2008, and 2012 elections. But his plan to increase association representation in the legislature has never materialised. He is now its only representative in Legco.

In a 2002 school address, Fung told his young audience: "No one's life is all plain sailing. So, we should treasure the good time, work hard and save the fruits for the bad times."

Perhaps it is time for Fung to put his own advice into practice.