Legco first-timers lose no time in setting the agenda

September 30, 2016 12:05
Independent candidate Eddie Chu Hoi-dick (R) speaks to the press following his spectacular win in Hong Kong's Legco elections earlier this month. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong's newly-elected legislators have begun taking up key social and political issues even though the lawmakers are yet to officially begin their term.

Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who secured a record 84,121 votes in the New Territories West constituency in the Sept. 4 election and earned the title of "king of votes", has single-handedly dropped a big bombshell on the embattled Leung Chun-ying administration.

Had it not been for Chu, the government's mysterious downsizing of a public housing project in Wang Chau in Yuen Long would have been another well-kept secret.

Following the fresh debate on the project, there are renewed concerns about collusion between the government and big business and rural kingpins in the New Territories.

Chu's comrade in arms, Edward Yiu Chung-yim, a land rights activist and a Chinese University professor who unseated pro-establishment incumbent in Legco's architectural and surveying functional constituency, further laid bare that top officials decided, definitely, to slash the number of Wang Chau public housing units to just 4,000, from an originally planned 17,000.

The government has been playing a word game in the wake of the revelations, saying that the project will be developed "in stages" and that the 4,000 units to be built there are just "Phase One".

Civic Passion's Cheng Chung-tai, who also won a Legco seat in New Territories West constituency, has drawn public attention to a long outstanding problem that concerns millions of the city's property owners.

Cheng warned that homeowners, especially those in the New Territories, may lose their properties overnight to the Chinese government in 2047, when a 50-year treaty related to Hong Kong's special status expires.

He warned about potential misuse of Article 7 of the Basic Law which stipulates that "land and natural resources within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be State property".

Cheng said he learnt that two thirds of the land leases of some 210 private estates in western New Territories will expire on June 30, 2047.

In response, Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said Cheng's remarks were alarmist in nature, and stressed that the government has the capacity and experience to deal with the significant caseload of lease extension applications "at a suitable juncture".

Cheng's worries are not unfounded, given that the government, which lacks people's mandate and trust, is yet to delineate its lease extension policies.

After the 2008 Legco elections I wrote in a column that the new legislature, made of some hardcore activists, campaigners and glib-tongued talebearers, would surely engage in political melodramas that could make soap operas seem pale in comparison.

Now, how do I feel about the lineup of new faces in the chamber eight years later?

Before the elections I never encouraged youngsters to run for any official post as I felt "one country, two systems" was a fallacy and the city's political prospects looked anything but rosy. I suggested that it will be better for the youth to pursue careers other than politics.

But now I see hope in the young men and women who have boldly taken on the Goliaths in a fight for just causes.

Some activists have managed to kick out Beijing puppets from a few functional constituencies, once a stronghold of the pro-establishment camp.

Thanks to the new crop of lawmakers, we once again have reason for hope that the legislature will stand up for our rights and protect the city's high degree of autonomy.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 20.

Translation by Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Political commentator Joseph Lian Yizheng (left) is seen with Nathan Law of the pro-democracy Demosistō party during an election campaign event. Photo: Jason940728

A famous Hong Kong writer; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal