Posts Tagged ‘Professor Lau Siu-kai’

Hong Kong: Pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight political race

February 17, 2017

By Joyce Lim
Hong Kong Correspondent
The Straits Times

Holding over 25% of the votes, they aim to stop Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam

On March 26, Hong Kong’s next leader will be voted in by an Election Committee of 1,194 members. That only so few have a say reflects the failure of the 2014 Occupy Protests, where protesters demanded “one man, one vote” in choosing the chief executive.

But the experience has galvanised the pan-democratic, or pro-democracy camp, to be more pragmatic. Previously, they would cast blank votes to show that they do not support pro-establishment contenders. This time, they hold 326 votes – which is more than a quarter of the votes in the Election Committee – and are determined to make them count.

With the election featuring three pro-establishment figures – Mrs Carrie Lam, Mr John Tsang and Ms Regina Ip – for the first time, the pan-democrats could be the “kingmakers” in a tight race.

Former security chief Ip, 66, who won the most votes for a female lawmaker in last September’s Legislative Council Election, was the first among the three to announce her candidacy, followed by Mr Tsang, 65, a former finance chief, and Mrs Lam, 59, a former chief secretary. Others include retired judge Woo Kwok Hing, 70, and radical pan-democrat Leung Kwok Hung, 60.

To become the next chief executive, at least 601 votes are needed. To qualify, each contender needs at least 150 nominations from the Election Committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing property tycoons, lawmakers as well as representatives of professional bodies and trade associations.

That’s the challenge for all but Mrs Lam, who has been endorsed by Beijing. She has reportedly secured 300 to 400 nominations while Mr Tsang has 24 nominations from pan-democrats.

Mr Tsang, who is leading in popularity polls, is seen as the strongest contender to Mrs Lam.

Some see Beijing’s move to name its preferred candidate as its bid to control the election, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chairman of the Beijing-backed Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies. And it is the pan-democrats’ aim to stop Beijing’s choice candidate from becoming the next chief executive.

“If John Tsang and Woo Kwok Hing are able to join the race, there may be unexpected results,” said Prof Lau, referring to the duo deemed acceptable by the pan-democrats. That is because the next leader would be picked by a secret ballot system, which could see Mrs Lam’s supporters switching sides.

Still, if Beijing had not declared its preferred candidate, it is unlikely that any contender would be able to win enough votes.

Last week, radical lawmaker Leung, better known as “Long Hair”, declared his intention to run and urged pan-democrats not to vote for the other four contenders who “do not represent (the) pro-democracy camp”.

But lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who is coordinating votes from the pan-democrats, told reporters the bloc is considering voting for Mr Tsang, Mr Woo and a third nominee picked from a mock online poll.

With nomination closing on March 1, pan-democrats should decide by next week, he said.

Critics have said Mr Leung’s intention to run has further split the pan-democratic camp already faced with the dilemma of whether to support Mr Tsang. Some worry about the possible backlash from endorsing someone who wants to enact the unpopular national security law.

But with Mr Tsang having a huge lead in popularity polls, even if he turns out to be like incumbent Leung Chun Ying, whose policies are unpopular with Hong Kongers, the pan-democrats could say that the candidate they have endorsed was the people’s choice.


Hong Kong elections: Young, radical voices will demand to be heard

September 6, 2016

By Joyce Lim
The Straits Times

HK could face fresh instability if the new localist politicians feel frustrated in Legco

Hong Kong has always been a largely conservative society with people focused on making a living, but the results of Sunday’s Legislative Council (Legco) elections reveal a shift in how Hong Kongers view politics.

The record 2.2 million Hong Kongers who turned out to cast their votes is also evidence that the city’s residents are now more concerned about their future and how the city is to be governed, analysts said.

And they want a new generation of lawmakers to represent them, as can be seen after veteran lawmakers like pan-democrats Lee Cheuk Yan and Cyd Ho from the Labour party lost their seats despite having good track records in serving their constituents.

In the first major election after the massive student-led protests in 2014 to push for greater democracy, Hong Kongers sent as many as seven localist candidates into the legislature.

This new wave of politicians who are fighting for self-determination and a higher degree of autonomy, many of them participants in the 2014 protests, have been dubbed localists for their desire to protect Hong Kong’s culture and identity.

Young activists ride anti-China mood to win Hong Kong vote

Nathan Law, center, of the political party Demosisto, who helped lead the 2014 protests, celebrates with teen protest leader Joshua Wong, second from left, and his supporters after winning a seat at the legislative council elections in Hong Kong, Monday, Sept. 5, 2016. A new wave of anti-China activists appeared headed for victory in Hong Kong’s most pivotal elections since the handover from Britain in 1997, which could set the stage for a fresh round of political confrontations over Beijing’s control of the city. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Some of them want Hong Kong to separate altogether from China, to which the city returned in 1997 under the One Country, Two Systems formula that grants Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, but which residents feel has been eroded in recent years.

However, despite the opposition – the traditional pan-democrats and the young upstarts – gaining a few more seats in these elections, the pro-Beijing camp still dominates with 40 seats now in the 70-seat legislature.

The results have not changed the basic structure of politics in Hong Kong, said Professor Lau Siu Kai, vice-chair of the Beijing-backed Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies.

In fact, the opposition camp has never been more divided, and it will be even harder for them to pull together to change the legislature, Prof Lau added.

The pan-democrats would need to cooperate with the localist camp to garner the one-third of votes needed to veto government decisions. Such cooperation was lacking during the campaign when candidates from the two sides crossed verbal swords on TV forums.

Beijing might be disappointed that its camp was unable to win more seats in order to create a new political situation in Hong Kong. But it should be more concerned with the young, radical voices that have found their way into Legco.

The election outcome has left Beijing with more than just a deadlock between the establishment and opposition camps. More radical demands and actions, and the continuation of attacks on Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying, are expected to come from the new generation of lawmakers, said analysts.

Political analyst Ivan Choy said: “If the localists try to move some motions on self-determination, they would have touched the most sensitive nerve of Beijing.”

Another political analyst, Dr Willy Lam, expects Beijing to use any radical actions by the localist legislators as a basis to restrain Hong Kong’s pace of democratisation even more.

When that happens, these legislators are likely to use unconventional tactics and spend a lot of time fighting on the streets after realising they can’t do much in the council.

And that could mean less stability for Hong Kong in the days to come.

Beijing Has Lost Trust In Hong Kong’s Leadership

March 6, 2016

Lau Siu-kai, a Hong Kong delegate to the CPPCC, says many items in previous five-year plan were not delivered on

By Tony Cheung in Beijing
South China Morning Post

For many Hong Kong representatives to China’s top advisory body, Beijing’s 13th five-year plan showed the central government’s strong backing for the city as it promised to support its technological sector and arbitration services.

Professor Lau Siu-kai shares that feeling, but he also sees another side of it.

According to the government’s former think tank chief, who was involved in formulating the 12th five-year plan, Beijing latest blueprint reflected its concern about the Hong Kong government’s ability to execute what is planned.

“The 12th five-year plan mentioned six new industries for Hong Kong and about 10 infrastructural items [for cross-border cooperation], but they were not delivered on … so this year there was no actual item at all. This reflected that we performed poorly on accomplishing tasks,” he said.

That worry might impact the outcome of next year’s chief executive election as well, as Lau believes executive ability, popularity, loyalty and conflict-resolving skills will be the key factors to win Beijing’s blessing to lead Hong Kong in the next five years.

On popularity, Lau said: “It is difficult to find someone very popular – but you cannot find someone hated by the people.”

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was criticised by political scientists for being unpopular and provocative in face of political attacks, but Lau stopped short of commenting on how well Leung did on the four areas he named.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying

In the nation’s five-year plan released in 2011, the chapter devoted to Hong Kong and Macau included a list of seven projects for cross-border cooperation, including three new development zones in Guangdong and infrastructure projects such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. None of seven has been completed yet.

Lau, then head of the government’s Central Policy Unit, was involved in drafting and submitting proposals for Beijing to adopt in the plan.

Five years on, Beijing’s plan released on Saturday mainly reaffirmed that Hong Kong will play a bigger role in the nation’s development, and Beijing will support the development of the technology sector and arbitration services. Both are areas Hong Kong is ready to explore, according to delegates.

Lau, a local delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, also criticised the Hong Kong government for lacking a long-term vision for the city.

He said whoever wins the chief executive election next year must “at least, with the backing of policy research, come up with visions, solutions and timetables for issues such as a sustainable economic development”.

Asked if Leung had done that in his election platform in 2012, Lau said: “I didn’t see that, did you see that? It is not just about what you say – you need to have a detailed and comprehensive plan.”


Hong Kong deputies no longer in the driving seat at National People’s Congress

Hong Kong no longer holds a special status from Beijing’s point of view

Hong Kong’s NPC delegation lose their casual sofas for a conference table in what analyst says signifies downgrade of city’s status

By Tony Cheung in Beijing and Owen Fung

In a gesture that demonstrated Beijing’s authority, the seating arrangement for the annual meeting between the state leader overseeing Hong Kong and the city’s deputies to the national legislature was changed for the first time since the 1997 handover.

National People’s Congress chairman Zhang Dejiang met the deputies in Beijing yesterday for the meeting, during which Zhang and Hong Kong’s 36-strong delegation led by Maria Tam Wai-chu were seated at one end of a room in the Great Hall of the People, as in previous years. But instead of having delegates lined up on two sides of the room, Zhang and Tam joined about 30 of them along with mainland officials in sitting around a large rectangular conference table, and the casual sofas they enjoyed in the past were substituted for chairs.

Some Hong Kong deputies appeared surprised arriving for the meeting at 9am. “Oh, this year we are sitting like this,” a deputy was heard murmuring to a colleague.

They sought to downplay the change however when asked if there was any political meaning behind it.

The arrangement in 2013. Photo: Xinhua

NPC Standing Committee member Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a deputy since 1998, said: “I think this arrangement is the norm, because in the past it looked like we were foreign guests … but in fact, just like those from mainland provinces, we are here to do our job, and not to receive courteous treatment.

“I think this new arrangement is better because it is easier for me to take notes,” she added.

NPC deputy Ip Kwok-him confirmed it was the first time the arrangement had been changed since 1997, but joined fellow deputy Ma Fung-kwok in saying “there is nothing special about it”.

Ching Cheong, a veteran journalist and commentator on China, said there used to be a tacit understanding that Hong Kong held a slightly more significant position than provinces on the mainland.

“The latest seating arrangement signifies that Hong Kong no longer holds a special status from Beijing’s point of view. Instead it is now on the same level as mainland provinces,” he said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s duty visit to the capital in December also saw state leaders’ remarks and pledges take a back seat to a seating change.

In their separate talks with Leung, President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were seated at the head of a long table, with Leung placed at one side. It stood in stark contrast to previous protocol under which the chief executive would always sit side by side with state leaders on sofas, giving the impression of an equal footing.

China Will Offer Hong Kong Universal Suffrage Vote Deal, But Democratic Party and College Students Smell a Rat

February 6, 2015


By Ng Kang-chung and Emily Tsang
South China Sea

The trade-based functional constituencies are likely to survive the implementation of universal suffrage, according to a top adviser to a Beijing think tank on Hong Kong affairs.

Professor Lau Siu-kai said he believes Beijing would aim for a system that could combine elements of universal suffrage with the Legislative Council’s trade-based seats.

Speaking after a radio interview yesterday, Lau, vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said: “From the viewpoint of the central authorities, Hong Kong’s governance in the past few years could have become much more difficult if it had not been for the support of legislators from functional constituencies.

“Beijing’s view is that Hong Kong’s political development must serve the purpose of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, which is … to protect investors’ interest and the capitalist system and avoid welfarism and populism.”

He believed Beijing would not allow the functional constituencies to be scrapped in the near future. “The most probable result is to find a way that can incorporate universal suffrage elements into functional constituency [elections],” he said.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee (left), Audrey Eu Yuet-mee (right) and other members of Civic Party protest to calling for the abolition of functional constituencies outside Legco in March, 2011. Photo: David Wong

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee has ruled that functional constituencies should make up half the seats in Legco, the chief executive can be elected by one man, one vote in 2017 and all lawmakers may also be subsequently also elected by universal suffrage.

Functional constituencies are mainly profession- or trade-based. Many have a narrow electoral base. In 2012, Steven Ho Chun-yin won the agriculture and fisheries seat with just 105 votes.

Emily Lau Wai-hing of the opposition Democratic Party insisted functional constituencies had to be abolished and ridiculed the suggestion the seats could be combined with elements of universal suffrage. She said: “Functional constituency elections with the characteristics of universal suffrage. Is it a joke?”

Meanwhile, a poll of over 1,200 medical students from Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong found 86 per cent said Legco should vote against the electoral reforms for the 2017 chief executive election if they were based on Beijing’s framework.

University of Hong Kong

Some 92 per cent said electing the chief executive according to Beijing’s wishes would not protect the rule of law and human rights in Hong Kong.

Britain made 1984 vow to Hong Kong on Sino-British joint declaration, declassified documents show

December 30, 2014


Former British PM told top city officials London would confront Beijing over any post-handover breaches of Joint Declaration, documents show

By Gary Cheung in London
South China Morning Post

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and husband Dennis (right) during the handover in 1997. Photo: AFP

Margaret Thatcher assured Hong Kong’s political elite during her visit to the city in December 1984 that Britain would not hesitate to raise any breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration with Beijing after 1997.

The pledge was stated in the notes prepared by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for the then prime minister’s informal conversations with members of the Executive Council and the Legislative Council on December 20, 1984.

Britain’s assurance came to light in files recently declassified from the National Archives in London.

The closed-door meeting was held a day after the joint declaration was signed by her and then Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang in Beijing.

Thatcher was reminded in the “points to make” drafted by the FCO to tell Exco and Legco members that there was good reason for thinking Beijing would observe the agreement.

“Observance is in China’s interests for economic reasons and for cause of reunification,” the notes said.

“Britain has the right to raise any breaches with China after 1997. We would not hesitate to do so.”

According to a declassified record of a meeting between Zhao and Thatcher on December 19, 1984, Zhao said it was a tradition of the Chinese nation to act in good faith.

“Zhao said China always lived up to her international commitments. The agreement reached on Hong Kong was such a good agreement that no one wanted to alter or change it,” the record said.

READ MORE: Signing of joint declaration masked deep rift between Britain and China over Hong Kong’s future

The high degree of autonomy Beijing pledged in the pact has been a bone of contention in Hong Kong in the wake of the release of the State Council’s white paper in June, which stated that Beijing had “comprehensive jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.

The “Iron Lady” was also advised to send a similar message at her press conference in Hong Kong on December 21, 1984.

In the briefing notes for the press conference, the FCO suggested the “line to take” on the hypothetical question: “What will Britain do if [the] Chinese do not implement [the] agreement?” Thatcher was advised to reply that a “breach of a legally binding international agreement would be a most serious matter, in our eyes and no doubt in those of [the] international community as a whole”.

“We would of course make the strongest possible representations to the Chinese government in order to seek a remedy.”

But Thatcher gave a milder answer at the press conference, saying: “If by any chance any question rose under the agreement, naturally a signatory to it would raise the matter with the Chinese government.”

Thatcher’s visit to China in 1982 launched the Sino-British negotiations on Hong Kong’s future. She died in April last year at the age of 87.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of mainland think tank the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said Beijing’s reputation was at stake if it failed to comply with the joint declaration. “Britain believes it has a moral duty to Hong Kong, but it doesn’t mean it has the oversight of the situation of Hong Kong after 1997,” Lau said.

Rifts between Britain and China over Hong Kong affairs emerged shortly after the signing of the joint declaration.

In July, British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming that Britain would “mobilise the international community and pursue every legal and other avenue available” if China breached the declaration.

On December 1, Prime Minister David Cameron stepped into a row over Beijing’s refusal to let a group of British lawmakers visit Hong Kong, saying that the decision was “counterproductive”.

The row centres on Beijing’s ban on a visit originally planned for this month by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the implementation of the joint declaration.