Old lawmakers like Frederick Fung need to make way for ‘new order’

Justin Wong

As by-elections loom, Frederick Fung’s refusal to let young people take charge is not a good sign for the opposition

Justin Wong |

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I am a Kowloon West constituency voter, and I will be disgusted if Frederick Fung Kin-kee is endorsed by the opposition to run for the Legislative Council by-elections next March.

The by-elections will be held to fill the seats left vacant by the disqualified lawmakers. They are crucial; the opposition must win at least four seats in the geographical constituency to regain their power to veto government bills.

That is why I’m opposed to Fung running in this high-stakes election. His current reputation and recent election track record could lead to disaster.

Fung is out of touch with the wave of new voters, even though he has a large following among low-income workers that his party, the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL), serves. At a time when the opposition is deeply divided, with new parties at both ends of the political spectrum gaining more support among young people, the old-school moderates are being marginalised. The old guard of the pan-democrats realise this, with the likes of Emily Lau Wai-hing, Albert Ho Chun-yan and Alan Leong Kah-kit making way for younger members, who, compared to the veterans, are more appealing to young voters thanks to their media skills as well as their ideology.

Fung, simply speaking, cannot relate to voters, particularly the young ones. While most young people take a localist stance and support more ambitious ideas such as Hong Kong’s independence, Fung still goes for the aged slogan, “Safeguarding One Country, Two Systems”. But young voters have lost confidence in such idealistic talk. While new voters crave radical measures, including disrupting Legco proceedings to stop absurd legislation from being passed, Fung’s “traditional” approach of orderly meetings is seen by many as enabling the government to pass ridiculous policies.

But the final straw is Fung’s refusal to let the youth take charge; he recently said he is actively considering joining the upcoming by-election in the Kowloon West area. This is despite threats by senior party members to resign, while it would also have made more sense for Fung to pave the way for younger members such as 29-year-old Kalvin Ho Kai-ming, who achieved prominence during his 2016 campaign for the “super seats”.

Despite the criticism aimed at him having fallen on deaf ears, Fung should have known his time is up, given his recent performance in elections. During the 2016 election, Fung’s relocation from the ADPL stronghold of Kowloon West to the New Territories West proved disastrous for the opposition – not only did Fung lose his seat, but his pitiful three per cent share of the vote took away vital numbers from fellow pan-democrat Lee Chek-yan, who lost to ultra-conservative Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. This shows that the support for Fung has gradually withered over the years.

In my opinion, if the opposition still endorses Fung to take part in the by-elections, it will be a very difficult campaign and his chance of failure will be higher than picking another candidate. Even though Fung claims he has the “experience” and the backing of “a good CV of public service”, it’s clear that most young people would not vote for him. His bid for candidacy has even caused rifts in his own party, which is unhealthy for the opposition as a whole.

The moderate approach to Hong Kong politics is coming to an end. If Fung wants to survive in this political landscape or maintain his reputation, he has to switch to an approach that satisfies his voters, or step aside for the next batch of lawmakers.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge