Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen speaks to the press after attending a meeting of pro-establishment lawmakers. Photo: Sam Tsang

Andrew Leung set to become Legco president as pro-establishment bloc rejects rival’s call for primary

Functional constituency lawmaker likely to defeat democratic caucus candidate James To due to camp’s majority in legislature

A pro-establishment lawmaker who has kept his seat unopposed to represent the industrial sector since 2004 is set to be elected ­president of the new Legislative Council, though some of his allies worry his lack of a bigger mandate could be a “ticking time bomb”.

The government’s political ­allies in the legislature endorsed Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen at an internal meeting yesterday as their candidate to succeed ­outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

The approval by the pro­establishment camp came ­despite strong objections by two of its members, Michael Tien Puk-sun and Paul Tse Wai-chun, both directly elected lawmakers who had also eyed the top job.

Most of the lawmakers who ­attended yesterday’s meeting also rejected Tien’s proposal to hold a primary by secret ballot ahead of the nomination process ending tomorrow, citing a lack of time.

Michael Tien Puk-sun will drop out of the Legco president race. Photo: Sam Tsang

Leung is expected to beat a challenge by the Democratic ­Party’s James To Kun-sun ­because of the pro-establishment camp’s majority in the 70-strong legislature, but that would go against the tradition of having ­directly elected lawmakers take the helm of the council.

“Every lawmaker enjoys the same status,” Leung said when asked about his trade-based functional constituency seat being seen as a small-circle mandate.

The former chairman of ­Legco’s house committee also ­admitted he had given up his ­British passport recently to qualify for the post.

Pan-democrats have criticised Leung’s hardline style of chairing past meetings, but he hit back ­yesterday, saying: “Give me facts [to prove] that I am a hardliner.”

Tien said he would pull out of the race for the sake of the camp’s interests, but insisted the post would be better held by someone with a bigger mandate.

“Some attendees reminded [Leung] to be more careful when making judgments in future as the democratic caucus might easily cast doubt on [them] ... given his background,” Tien said.

His worries were shared by Liberal Party chairman Felix Chung Kwok-pan, who called it a “ticking time bomb”, given the potential for conflict in a divided Legco.

“Leung once expelled lawmakers from the Legco chamber without prior warning when he was acting president in previous meetings … I believe the ­conflict [between the two camps] might escalate if he becomes president,” veteran democrat To said.

Both To and Leung will attend a special forum next Tuesday to answer colleagues’ questions ahead of the election the day after, when the winner will be decided by secret ballot.

Separately, the pro-establishment camp made a U-turn over allowing accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung, a pan-democrat, to be the vice-chairman of the ­finance committee, the key panel that scrutinises government funding requests. Martin Liao Cheung-kong, who was elected convenor of the Beijing-friendly bloc, ­revealed they were now inclined to hold on to the post instead of letting their rivals have it, as ­suggested by ­earlier reports.

The bloc has retained the chairmanship and vice-chairmanship of the finance committee for the past two years, during which the pan-democrats staged multiple filibusters to delay or block funding for controversial public works projects they ­opposed.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Legco chief hopeful a ‘ticking time bomb’