Extradition bill saga fuels infighting within Liberal Party

July 09, 2019 13:50
James Tien, one of the honorary chairpersons of the Liberal Party, has revealed that he had written a letter demanding that the party's chairman resign from the government’s Executive Council in the wake of the extradition bill controversy. Photo: HK

As the government continues to battle the extradition bill crisis, one of the city’s major political parties is witnessing some infighting among its ranks in relation to the stance to be taken against the administration.

On Monday, James Tien Pei-chun, one of the honorary chairpersons of the Liberal Party, told a Commercial Radio program that he and three other party honorary chairs, namely Selina Chow Liang Shuk-yee, Miriam Lau Kin-yee and Vincent Fang Kang, have jointly written a letter demanding that the party's chairman, Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, resign from the Executive Council over the extradition bill controversy.

The party should not have voiced its support for the government’s proposal to revise the extradition laws, given the strong opposition from the public, the four said in their letter to party members, according to Tien.

In light of recent developments, Chueng should quit the Exco and focus only on party affairs, they said.

Following the massive street protest against the bill on June 9, the Liberal Party said in a statement that night that it supported the government in resuming the bill’s second reading debate on June 12.

Tien revealed on Monday that a party leader and lawmaker, Felix Chung Kwok-pan, was opposed to issuing such a statement at that time, but Cheung managed to get approvals from the other lawmakers of the party before having it issued.

The statement of support was tantamount to making the Liberal Party “an accomplice” to the government in the extradition bill saga, Tien said, adding that the plan added to people’s sense of despair, resulting in violent clashes between protesters and police on June 12.

“I think the executive councilors’ main role is to give the government the right advice, not bad advice, so if you keep giving the government bad advice in this incident, I think those councilors who gave that bad advice to go ahead should resign,” Tien told RTHK.

Tien said that if Cheung refuses to quit the Exco, he will seek opinions from party members before deciding the next move. He admitted that some people may reconsider their party membership.

In response to Tien’s remarks, Cheung said in a party press release that he can understand Tien’s views, but stressed that the June 9 statement was issued after he consulted the other three lawmakers of the party.

What Tien alleged in his remarks was not what actualy happened, the party chairman said.

In a phone call on the night of June 9, all the four lawmakers of the Liberal Party discussed the statement and agreed to release it, according to Cheung.

While Cheung did not respond as to whether he will resign from the Exco, he claimed that many members have expressed their support for his work since Monday morning.

Felix Chung, meanwhile, said in a radio program Tuesday morning that he supported the joint demand of the four honorary chairs, agreeing that Cheung should resign from his post as Exco member.

Commenting on the infighting, Claudia Mo Man-ching, convener of the pan-democrats' meeting group of lawmakers, said she supports Tien’s argument that Cheung’s resignation would be a logical move.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor should disband the Exco, said Mo, adding that the advisory body has lost its way.

In addition to Cheung, Tien also believes Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu should be held accountable for the social disturbances caused by the extradition bill.

He suggested that Lee should be removed from his post, and that Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung should take over as the new security chief.

As for Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, Tien said he is not sure if she should be asked to resign, as finding a replacement could prove difficult under the current circumstances.

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