20 July 2019
A collaboration between Regina Ip (inset) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is believed to have come about after the lawmaker and New People’s Party chairperson made the first move. Photo: HKEJ
A collaboration between Regina Ip (inset) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions is believed to have come about after the lawmaker and New People’s Party chairperson made the first move. Photo: HKEJ

Regina Ip-HKFTU: Going behind a political marriage

A private member’s bill targeting the Link REIT that was jointly proposed by Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee of the New People’s Party and Alice Mak Mei-kuen of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU) has been given the green light by the Department of Justice.

The bill will be officially tabled soon in the Legislative Council for scrutiny, yet the chances of its passage through the House are pretty remote, given the opposition of lawmakers representing the business sector.

According to a source in the HKFTU, it was Ip who had invited the trade union association for a partnership on moving a bill in the Legco against Link REIT.

This brings up the question: Ip could have tabled the “good bill” on her own in order to take all the credit herself, so why did she seek the collaboration of the labor group?

That source believes the reason why Ip did so was because she wanted to gain favor with the “diehard fans” of the HKFTU in order to boost her odds in running for a “super district council seat”, officially referred to as District Council (Second) of a functional constituency, in the 2020 Legco race.

As far as the HKFTU is concerned, cooperating with Ip would work in its favor, too.

It is because, since its members are unlikely to secure any candidacy in the hotly contested Super DC seat race, why not seek an ally right now, i.e. Ip, and campaign for her in 2020?

In the meantime, it is also quite unlikely that the HKFTU can further expand its gains in the geographical constituencies, since its incumbents, namely, Kwok Wai-keung on Hong Kong Island and Mak in New Territories West, are both facing competition in their bid to get re-elected.

In New Territories East, Bill Tang Ka-piu is aggressively eying one of the nine seats in the constituency, and is proactively preparing to fight a battle to unseat one of the incumbents.

In Kowloon East, it is believed that Wong Kwok-kin is going to step down and let his younger party colleague Kalvin Ho Kai-ming, a sitting lawmaker representing the labor sector in the functional constituency, run instead.

In Kowloon West, the candidacy is quite full, as the pro-establishment camp currently has four seats in the geographical constituency.

As we can see, there is seemingly no space for the HKFTU to field any more candidates in the five geographical constituencies to compete in the race, let alone win more.

As such, it becomes highly crucial for the HKFTU to keep its seat in the functional constituency representing the labor sector, currently held by its member Michael Luk Chung-hung, if the party is to maintain its influence in the legislature.

The only hurdle for Luk to hang on to his functional constituency seat for another term is that under an unwritten “family rule” of the HKFTU, all sitting labor sector functional constituency lawmakers can only serve for one term, and must then switch to a geographical constituency after that.

Yet there has been talk that Luk, who is now finding it almost impossible to seal his candidacy in any of the five geographical constituencies, could remain in office for another term. 

As some HKFTU figures have argued, the “family rule” is far from immutable, as it was laid down years ago by the group’s former chairman Cheng Yiu-tong after he was dissatisfied with one of their then labor sector functional constituency lawmakers.

The rule has never been written in black and white in the party’s constitution, and hence can be subject to adjustment or change.

Even within the labor group, there is agreement on the idea that it is too difficult for a functional constituency lawmaker to firmly build solid public recognition within a four-year Legco term so as to run in a geographical constituency immediately. Moreover, given the limited candidate options in the geographical constituency, it would be okay for the incumbent lawmaker to remain in the functional constituency for one more term.

We were unable to reach Luk by the time of this writing on Wednesday, and hence cannot confirm, for the time being, whether he might indeed become the first ever HKFTU lawmaker to break the “family rule”.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 11

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe