Date
16 October 2018
The pro-establishment camp is said to be not too happy with Michael Tien (inset) and his aggressive posturing against MTR and the government in relation to a railway works scandal. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ
The pro-establishment camp is said to be not too happy with Michael Tien (inset) and his aggressive posturing against MTR and the government in relation to a railway works scandal. Photos: Bloomberg, HKEJ

Why Michael Tien may be unseated as Legco railways panel chief

As Hong Kong’s lawmakers prepare to return to work on Wednesday, there are expectations that the Legislative Council will witness a reshuffle of the heads and deputy chiefs of various panels and subcommittees.

It is said that while the pro-establishment camp is dead set on taking command of a number of key Legco panels, it is also planning to unseat Michael Tien Puk-sun, the incumbent chairman of the Legco Subcommittee on Matters Relating to Railways.

There has been a lot of talk recently that the pro-establishment bloc is determined to replace Tien with Liberal Party lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the functional constituency of the transport sector, as the new chairman of the railways subcommittee.

In the wake of the works scandal pertaining to the MTR Shatin-to-Central Link, the Legco’s railways subcommittee has got a lot of media exposure in recent months. Tien, in his capacity as chairman of the subcommittee, has seen a surge in popularity among the public, thanks to his intense criticism of the MTR and his on-and-off disclosure of insider information.

Nevertheless, according to sources, Tien’s high-profile and aggressive posturing against the MTR and the government over the scandal have raised a lot of eyebrows among his pro-establishment colleagues.

In particular, Tien’s failure to block a motion moved by the pan-dems demanding the resignation of Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan and MTR Chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang during the subcommittee’s last meeting in July before the Legco summer break has turned out to be the last straw that is prompting the pro-Beijing camp to remove him.

The chatter has in a way been confirmed by Tien himself, as he has revealed that he had suggested that he would not mind serving another year as the chairman of the panel but was told by the pro-establishment camp that someone else was interested in his job.

Given the situation, Tien said he didn’t insist on seeking re-election.

Tien added that he often felt hamstrung during the subcommittee’s meetings in the past.

It is because according to council rules, the chairperson doesn’t enjoy priority over other members in raising questions with government officials at the meeting, nor can the person freely move motions and cast votes.

According to Tien, he would turn up the heat on the government and the MTR as well as enhance Legco oversight of the city’s railway service once he is freed from the burden of chairing the subcommittee.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 6

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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