Lau Wong-fat, the most influential indigenous clansman of the New Territories who was also dubbed the “King of New Territories”, died peacefully at his own home on Sunday at the age of 80.
Due to his deteriorating health, “Uncle Fat” had retired totally from public life right till his death since he made his last public appearance at a Heung Yee Kuk (the “Kuk”, i.e., the rural council) meeting back in July 2015 chaired by his son, Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, who succeeded him as chairman of the Kuk.
Despite his conservatism and clan background, Uncle Fat had displayed highly diplomatic and tactful skills in resolving differences with his adversaries and defusing political crises involving clansmen and the government over land issues, and this had earned him great respect not only from the pro-establishment camp but also from the pan-democrats during his lifetime.
Uncle Fat’s death has raised doubts among political circles over whether his son Kenneth Lau, who is said to be not very interested in politics, is capable of filling his father’s shoes and continuing to command the various vested interests and clans within the Kuk in the days ahead.
But as some pro-establishment lawmakers have pointed out, everything within the Kuk has remained steady, on course and on schedule over the past two years under the leadership of Kenneth Lau, who has also succeeded his father as a member of the Legislative Council representing the Kuk and the Executive Council.
As such, they are pretty optimistic that he can prove himself to be cut out for the job in the “post-Uncle Fat” period.
Bowie Hau Chi-keung, an ex-officio member of the Kuk, has also praised Kenneth Lau for his steady improvement in carrying out his duties as the chairman of the Kuk, and is confident that members of the Kuk will continue to stick together and support him in the days ahead, even though, he admits, “everybody in the Kuk is eyeing the chairmanship”.
Yet, some in the Kuk have also warned that although Lau might be doing a pretty good job as chairman for now, he still has no room for complacency if he wants to continue to stay ahead of the game in the coming days.
They said Lau has to face at least two major challenges: the increasingly intense competition for political predominance in the New Territories posed by the New Territories Association of Societies, which allegedly has the blessing of the Beijing Liaison Office, and the mounting public pressure for the Small House Policy, also known as “Ding’s right”, to be scrapped.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 24
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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