Date
25 September 2017
Pro-establishment lawmakers had pledged to start a "vote them out" campaign against the pan-democrats, but that was before their walkout last Thursday, when the political reform bill was defeated at the Legislative Council. Photo: HKEJ
Pro-establishment lawmakers had pledged to start a "vote them out" campaign against the pan-democrats, but that was before their walkout last Thursday, when the political reform bill was defeated at the Legislative Council. Photo: HKEJ

How will Beijing restructure the ageing pro-establishment camp?

One lesson from last week’s monumental fiasco by the pro-establishment camp is this: Some people are simply too old to cope with Hong Kong’s dynamic political scene.

To be able to perform what they are required to do — from coming up with strategies to fend off the pan-democrats’ challenge to learning to how to count the number of legislators that makes up a quorum — the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) need new blood to turn themselves into a younger, more energetic and flexible group.

Minutes before the start of historic vote on the government’s political reform bill last Thursday, DAB’s Ip Kwok-him and BPA’s Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung asked members of the pro-establishment camp to step outside the Legislative Council to wait for their tardy colleague, Lau Wong-fat.

However, their move, meant to deny the session a quorum, was rendered useless. Several pro-Beijing colleagues, including James Tien Puk-chun of the Liberal Party and Chan Yuen-han of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, stayed put and cast their ballots. The rest, as they say, is history.

But looking at it from another angle, one will notice that many of the principal characters in this farcical episode are members of the geriatric set.

Lau, also known as Fat Suk, has been a legislator for 24 years. He is turning 79 later this year, the oldest pro-Beijing guard in Legco. Jeffrey Lam is 64 while Ip Kwok-him is 63.

It is perhaps a bit too much to expect Chan Yuen-han, 69, and James Tien, 68, to leave the venue with only 30 seconds left before the voting started.

A back of the envelop calculation showed the average age of our 70 lawmakers is 64.7. That is another way of saying that most of these people will be entitled to pay just HK$2 fare for public transport as senior citizens when they are discharged next year.

Earlier this year, Tam Yiu-chung, the most senior legislator with close to 30 years of service, passed the DAB chairmanship to a younger Starry Lee Wai-king, 41. But that is surely not enough; reform must have depth and breadth.

Amid calls for three Executive Council members — Jeffrey Lam, Starry Lee amd Regina Ip Suk-yee — to quit their posts because they missed their voting duty, we found that the pressure on Lee to resign was the least among the three. That’s probably because she’s the youngest.

In an interview with TVB, the 65-year-old Ip said the Legco needs new blood to inject vitality into the ageing council, noting that it takes time to find and train talent who will take over the duties of senior members.

Hopes are high that Legco 2016 will bring in more young people. Currently only five are under the age 40 and 11 under 50. By comparison, British Prime Minister David Cameron is only 49.

All told, the future of Hong Kong lies in our youth, not the elderly in Legco.

Let’s face it: DAB and BPA are never popular among Hongkongers because they are too old. 

Perhaps, Beijing officials, themselves advancing fast in years, might have thought in the past that their loyalists in the Legco would never get old. They should have realized by now that they are wrong.

As some pro-Beijing commentators have suggested, Beijing now has a reason to restructure the pro-establishment camp. In that sense, last week’s fiasco at Legco is more of an opportunity than a crisis.

Following the failure of the push for a national security law in Hong Kong in 2003, Beijing ordered a merger of the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance and the DAB, making it the largest political party in the legislative body in terms of number of seats and financial resources.

This time, the Liaison Office may appoint a convenor to lead the pro-establishment camp or simply merge all parties into one. 

The details are unclear before all parties in the pro-establishment camp meet later this week. 

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BK/JP/CG

EJ Insight writer

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