26 February 2020
There has been chatter that James Tien is looking to move away from the Liberal Party due to unease with the party's approach on some key issues. Photo: HKEJ
There has been chatter that James Tien is looking to move away from the Liberal Party due to unease with the party's approach on some key issues. Photo: HKEJ

Will the Liberal Party split again?

Recently, James Tien Pei-chun, a former lawmaker and an incumbent honorary chairperson of the Liberal Party, revealed during a media interview that he is setting his sights on the upcoming Legco election.

He told reporters that he is now making a joint effort with the other two honorary party chairpersons — Miriam Lau Kin-yee and Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee — as well as former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, to “make some attempts” at the Legco election scheduled for September.

While Tien didn’t go into detail as to what exactly he is planning to do regarding the September election, he said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of forming another political party to run for Legco.

It is said that over the past year, Tien has been getting increasingly dismayed at the existing party line adopted by the Liberals under the leadership of the incumbent chairperson Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who is also a lawmaker representing the catering sector in the Legco functional constituency.

In particular, what has frustrated Tien most is that, in his view, the Liberal Party has failed to express its clear dissent against the government throughout the extradition bill saga, and didn’t voice its concerns about the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance on behalf of the business sector.

Worse still, much to Tien’s disappointment, the sitting lawmakers of the Liberal Party quickly and eagerly fell into line immediately after Beijing’s Liaison Office ordered the pro-establishment camp to rally behind the government over the extradition bill push.

From the point of view of Tien, the Liberal Party has failed to fulfill the role as an “open-minded pro-establishment party. However, Tommy Cheung is still very much in favor with most of the Liberals.

Sources have revealed that Tien is now approaching some prominent figures in various sectors who share the same political ideals as him, and trying to talk them into running for Legco in September.

Tien believes, sources added, that if these potential candidates are able to snap up a few seats in the new Legco, they may be able to fulfill the function as the “decisive minority” in the legislature.

According to the sources, Tien is aggressively eying a number of functional constituency seats, many of which are now firmly in the hands of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPAHK), including seats representing the “commercial-first”, the engineering and the financial services sectors.

It is understood that Tien is now speaking with the son of a former lawmaker and a prominent female business leader about their potential Legco candidacy. Yet everything is still in the early stage, as many figures whom Tien has approached are against the idea of forming a new political party.

As far as the Legco geographical constituencies are concerned, it is said that Tien has got in touch with a few newly sworn-in rookie District Councilors who have no political affiliations.

That said, sources indicate that even Tien himself isn’t optimistic about the odds of him being able to successfully put together a new political party.

In the meantime, quite a number of Liberals have told us that they have learned about Tien’s plan to quit the Liberal Party a long time ago, only that his sudden candor about this matter in the recent media interview has come as a surprise to them.

According to a party insider, no matter how unhappy Tien may be unhappy with the conservative approach adopted by the current party leadership, the chances of him leading a rush to secede from the Liberal Party to form another new political group are quite remote.

It is because after all, the Liberal Party is a “real-life son” that has been raised by Tien, Selina Chow and Allen Lee Peng-fei right from its birth in the mid-90s.

When asked about his take on Tien’s planned moves, Tommy Cheung remarked that “it wasn’t the first time Tien told others that he wanted to form another party”.

The party chief, meanwhile, added that he would neither stop Tien from his activities nor help him in whatever he plans to do.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.