Date
20 October 2017
The pro-establishment Liberal Party has never gained much support in direct elections, except in 2004, a year after James Tien quit the Executive Council to express opposition to a proposed national security law. Photo: HKEJ
The pro-establishment Liberal Party has never gained much support in direct elections, except in 2004, a year after James Tien quit the Executive Council to express opposition to a proposed national security law. Photo: HKEJ

Tien’s CPPCC ouster: Some reflections on pro-business parties

The expulsion of James Tien Pei-chun from Beijing’s top political advisory body will add to the weakness in pro-business political groups in Hong Kong and provide the business sector an excuse to keep the functional constituency in the Legislative Council, columnist T Y Ko wrote in the Hong Kong Economic Journal Friday.

The comment came after Tien was stripped of his membership of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference because (CPPCC) following his suggestion that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying should consider resigning following a governance crisis in the city amid pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong has never nurtured a political party that truly represents the interests of businessmen. Businessmen, in fact, didn’t make enough efforts over the last two decades to build up a political voice that can protect their interests with public support, Ko said.

The Liberal Party, which Tien had headed until his resignation Wednesday, once matched the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) in standing as the major party in the Legislative Council. But it never gained much support from the public in direct elections, and only relied on gaining seats through the functional constituency, Ko noted.

Only two out of 10 seats the Liberal Party won in 2004, the most ever, were through direct elections, or 6.67 percent of the total votes, with all the rest from functional constituency.

The voting rate for the supposedly pro-business party compares with 23.7 percent garnered by the Democratic Party and 25.7 percent for the pro-labor DAB. This is way different from the evenly divided political arena in Europe and the United States.

The reason for such abnormal development may be some elements in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, that make political parties in the city assume a watchdog or guardian role, instead of taking a leadership position.

As the government has taken upon itself to protect the interests of the business sector, businessmen haven’t had the motivation to launch some initiatives on their own. Thus, they always lose to the pro-labor parties in the Legco elections. 

Also, most businessmen are averse to taking up political campaigns directly. To represent their interests, they rely on agents, who have not always performed well.

The weak performance of the business sector in the direct elections will provide an excuse for the pro-business groups to call for maintaining the functional constituency as they can claim that more democracy will favor the labor groups and hurt taxpayers’ interests.

The think tank that former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa is setting up could fill the gap in expertise that the Liberal Party has shown. However, as members in this think tank remain political agents, it remains to be seen whether it will work.

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VW/JP/RC

Freelance journalist

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