27 January 2020
The upcoming election in the Heung Yee Kuk may see a showdown between the squires of the Kuk and the Beijing Liaison Office. Photo: HKEJ
The upcoming election in the Heung Yee Kuk may see a showdown between the squires of the Kuk and the Beijing Liaison Office. Photo: HKEJ

NT squires and Liaison Office may square off in Kuk election

The Heung Yee Kuk (also known as the Kuk) is set to elect its new chairman and two vice-chairmen on June 1.

It is anticipated that incumbent chairman Kenneth Lau Ip-keung, who succeeded his late father Lau Wong-fat (“Uncle Fat”) four years ago, and vice-chairman Daniel Lam Wai-keung would have no difficulty getting re-elected.

All eyes are now on another vice-chairman post, currently occupied by the 66-year-old Cheung Hok-ming, who is reportedly not seeking re-election this year because of his poor eyesight.

Peter Lam Yick-kuen, who has succeeded Cheung as the new chairman of the Tai Po Rural Committee, is widely tipped as a major hopeful for vice-chairmanship of the Kuk. However, sources also revealed that Mok Kam-kwai, the incumbent chairman of the Sha Tin Rural Committee, is also eyeing the seat with the full backing of the Beijing Liaison Office.

Peter Lam is the son of Lam To-ming, a highly respected figure among the New Territories squires and president of the Overseas Advisory Committee of the Heung Yee Kuk.

In recent years, the elder Lam has been working aggressively to elevate his son to prominence in the Kuk.

And earlier, there has been talk that Peter Lam’s bid for vice-chairmanship has been endorsed by quite a number of Kuk heavyweights, including Lau, the chairman.

If Peter Lam and Mok do run against each other, it will mean that the squires of the Kuk and the Liaison Office may square off in the upcoming election.

Although the Kuk has long been regarded as a key body in the pro-establishment camp, there has been talk that some clansmen in the Kuk are quite dismayed at the interference of the Liaison Office in the New Territories affairs over the years.

For instance, outgoing vice-chairman Cheung’s affiliation with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong has raised speculation that he could be a pro-Beijing proxy installed by the Liaison Office.

When asked, Mok declined to confirm his candidacy, only saying that he is still thinking about it and has yet to make a final decision.

Nor was Mok willing to comment on the prospect of him going head to head with Peter Lam in the upcoming election.

In fact, apart from Lam and Mok, it is also understood that Gary Hau Chi-keung, chairman of the Sheung Shui District Rural Committee, and Li Yiu-ban, chairman of the Sai Kung North Rural Committee, are also planning to join the race.

However, given the fact that the two aren’t considered mainstream members of the Kuk, their odds of winning are much smaller than those of Lam and Mok.

And under the “unwritten rule” laid down by the New Territories squires, they may eventually withdraw from the race.

Although Mok has been recently involved in a court case over the selling of the “ding” rights, and as a result, has provoked resentment among some Kuk members, it is believed that some of the 50 enfranchised justices of the peace in the Kuk who are on good terms with the Liaison Office may possibly cast their votes for him.

Yet as far as the other JPs who are as senior as the late “Uncle Fat” are concerned, they may not be willing to toe the Liaison Office’s line over matters related to the leadership of the Kuk, and their defiance could prove a significant element that may affect the final outcome of the election.

But even so, things would still pretty much depend on whether the Beijing’s Liaison Office will step in and give orders behind the scene at the last minute.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 14

Translation by Alan Lee 

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.