Hong Kong Chiu Chow group packed with tycoons ‘disappointed’ by Election Committee snub, demands seats on newly empowered body

Gary Cheung
·4-min read

Leaders of a local townsmen’s organisation have called on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to grant them seats on a committee that will enjoy broad powers to influence the city’s politics under a Beijing-decreed overhaul.

In a letter sent to Lam last week, the Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organisations expressed disappointment with the government’s decision to exclude it from the newly expanded 1,500-member Election Committee despite the contributions of community members to the city, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

The document gave a hint of possible internal wrangling in the pro-establishment camp in its bid for political power under the new electoral system, even though Beijing had set aside a majority of seats in the committee for its supporters.

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The letter was signed by more than a dozen heavyweights who count themselves Chiu Chow community members, including former health minister Ko Wing-man, tycoon and Trade Development Council chairman Peter Lam Kin-ngok, and Asia Financial Holdings chairman Robin Chan – who is also the father of Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan.

Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, a member of the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top advisory body, and Bunny Chan Chung-bun, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, were also among the signatories.

Many Hong Kong tycoons – including billionaires Li Ka-shing and Joseph Lau Luen-hung – belong to the Chiu Chow community. Li is principal honorary president of the federation.

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A source from the federation said: “The letter highlights the history of the Chiu Chow community in Hong Kong and the fact that nearly 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s population are Chiu Chow natives.

“There is no reason for the government not to list us on the Election Committee.”

The letter also noted the federation’s history of mobilising pro-establishment supporters in previous elections and providing services at the district level.

Under local legislation unveiled last week and designed to implement Beijing’s revamp of Hong Kong’s electoral system, 60 new seats on the Election Committee are earmarked for “associations of Chinese fellow townsmen”, and will be shared among 24 community groups representing different mainland provincial clans, such as those from Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Shandong and Sichuan.

But the Chiu Chow federation, founded in 2001, was not given any seats on the committee, which will now wield the power to nominate all candidates for the Legislative Council and elect 40 lawmakers – on top of its original duty of selecting the city’s chief executive.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre left) attends the inauguration of the board of directors of the Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organizations in February. Photo: Handout
Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre left) attends the inauguration of the board of directors of the Federation of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community Organizations in February. Photo: Handout

Chiu Chow refers to the Chaozhou region in northeast Guangdong province, and it is estimated that more than a million Hong Kong residents have ancestral roots there.

However, the seats for townsmen groups are allocated on the basis of province, and the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations is named as the voter for that region in the newly created Election Committee subsector. Despite hailing from the same province, many in the Chiu Chow federation do not play a prominent role in the Guangdong body.

CK Asset Holdings, where Li Ka-shing serves as a senior adviser, did not respond to inquiries from the Post on Thursday.

According to Forbes Asia, Li reclaimed his crown as Hong Kong’s richest person in February, unseating property tycoon Lee Shau-kee – whose ancestral home is in Shunde, Guangdong. Lau, former chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, ranked eighth richest in the city.

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Meanwhile, in a Legco meeting on Thursday, lawmakers asked officials to clarify under what circumstances the government would prosecute people who urged others to boycott an election, a subject of much debate since Beijing moved to cement the establishment’s control over local polls.

Roy Tang Yun-kwong, permanent secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said under the proposed bill, it would be illegal to do so publicly after the nomination period for an election had started.

However, Tang said, discussing a hypothetical exception, if someone urged others not to take part in an election because it was unlawfully being used as a “de facto referendum”, then that would be a reasonable defence against prosecution.

Under a separate bill that the lawmakers have been scrutinising – formally known as the Public Offices (Candidacy and Taking Up Offices) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill – a politician can be unseated for using an election as a de facto referendum on Beijing or Hong Kong’s policies.

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