How an Ap Lei Chau housing petition became a war of words over the national flag

Former lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok clashes with chief executive ahead of Executive Council meeting

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 10:28pm

A former lawmaker’s petition against Hong Kong’s chief executive over town planning in Ap Lei Chau has turned into a farcical war of words about the national flag.

On Tuesday, after answering the media’s questions ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Leung Chun-ying received petitions from members of the public, including Civic Party member and former legislator Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, who wanted to hand Leung a petition against a controversial town planning project in Ap Lei Chau.

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The proposal involves rezoning at least 1.18 hectares of prime harbourfront land to allow construction of 1,400 private flats on Lee Nam Road by private developers. District councillors and residents raised concerns about population density and traffic congestion last September.

Chan, an associate professor on international politics at Baptist University, reiterated calls for the government to abandon the plan when he confronted Leung outside the Exco meeting.

Pointing his finger at the flag-raising podium in the government headquarters, Leung reportedly asked Chan: “This is a place flying the five-star red flag, why are you here?”

The chief executive was referring to China’s national flag.

Chan, interpreting the gesture as an accusation by Leung that he was anti-China, told reporters that it was an inappropriate move by the chief executive.

Leung later wrote on his official blog that he only told Chan that “the national and Hong Kong flags are raised in front of the chief executive’s office every morning at 8am”, adding: “I welcome him to come and see”.

Quoting the professor’s own words, Leung also pointed out that Chan often challenged students to think about a scenario where “the national flag would no longer be raised one morning” signifying that “the regime has fallen”.

Chan told the Post that Leung did not tell him about the daily flag raising, nor welcomed him to see it.

On his earlier words that Leung had cited, Chan said: “He knows I’m an academic on Eastern European studies and how those communist countries transformed into democracies ... I don’t think there are any no-go areas in my research.”

“I was surprised by Leung’s attitude ... as a Hongkonger, it is my responsibility and right to tell the government about my demands,” he added, in reference to his town planning petition.