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Legislative Council by-election 2018

Veteran Hong Kong democrat Frederick Fung to quit party he founded 30 years ago

Seasoned political player set to announce departure from ADPL amid speculation he is eyeing easier run at November Legco poll free from constraints imposed by allies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 8:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 11:12pm

A veteran Hong Kong politician and democracy advocate is set to abandon the political party he co-founded three decades ago in what analysts believe is a ploy to bypass candidate selection procedures for a legislative by-election in November.

Frederick Fung Kin-kee is expected to announce his resignation from the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL) on Thursday amid speculation he will declare himself an independent candidate for the Legislative Council poll.

The move would allow Fung to escape the system by which Hong Kong’s opposition pan-democratic camp will pick hopefuls to contest a seat representing Kowloon West constituency.

Fung, who is known for his middle-of-the-road views, is expected to announce he will set up an advocacy group on Hong Kong’s housing crisis and other issues affecting the poor.

He co-founded the ADPL in 1986 as a pressure group before it evolved into a political party. In 2007, Fung stepped down as chairman after a disastrous defeat in district council polls. However, he is still regarded as the spiritual leader of the group.

The party was dealt another blow in the 2016 Legislative Council polls when Fung failed to win re-election.

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Speculation has been rampant that he wanted to make a comeback but had been pressured to withdraw from a March by-election by fellow pan-democrats, some of whom believed his chance of winning was slim.

According to an agreement within the bloc, Fung, who came second in a primary, was supposed to serve as a backup to Edward Yiu Chung-yim. But he later revealed how allies had told him that, should he press ahead as a candidate, they would send someone to challenge him.

Fung admitted the saga had hurt his relations with the camp.

He has so far remained tight-lipped on whether he will run in November.

“I can’t rule out any possibility. But I have not given it serious consideration so far,” Fung said in an interview earlier.

ADPL chairman Sze Tak-loy said: “It is overstating the situation to say Fung is leaving because he is unhappy with us. Fung told us he wanted to try something new and spend time on it. We respect his decision.”

Sze said he understood Fung had been thinking about the next chapter in his life since becoming embroiled in the row among pan-democrats about their strategy for the March by-election.

“He finally told us he had made up his mind, and that’s it,” Sze said.

Fellow party veterans had tried to persuade him to rethink his plans, Sze added.

Fung’s resignation will be formally discussed and approved at an internal party meeting to be held by the end of this month.

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The seasoned political operator is known to also be unhappy with the system being used by pan-democrats to select poll candidates for November. Instead of holding a primary, the bloc is said to favour localist Lau Siu-lai as their first choice and the Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan as a backup.

Fung criticised the system as “anti-democratic” and said he favoured a primary to give the public a say.

But analysts believed Fung’s departure from the ADPL would do him no favours.

Chinese University of Hong Kong political scientist Professor Ma Ngok said he was pessimistic about Fung’s political future.

“He is already yesterday’s man, and without the support of a party I don’t think he stands any chance of winning any election,” Ma said.

“But one can hardly imagine what the ADPL will become without Fung. It will end up a lose-lose situation.”