29 August 2016

Legco Election Special: Part 4 - New Territories East


Continuing with my Legislative Council (Legco) election series, we turn now to New Territories East, where three incumbent lawmakers from the opposition camp will take my five-question challenge.

My top picks in New Territories East are League of Social Democrats’ “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung 長毛梁國雄 (candidate #5), Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu 楊岳橋(candidate #7) and People Power’s “Slow Beat” Raymond Chan Chi-chuen 慢必陳志全 (candidate #18).
Get out and vote!

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Question 1: Beyond rhetoric and slogans, what concrete action or achievements can you point to that distinguish you from other candidates?

Long Hair: I have a three-prong strategy: filibusters, public demonstrations and courtroom protests. I’ll continue to use various forms of civil disobedience to force Beijing to back off and accept our demand for self-determination. I’ve stood up to the powerful regime all these years and I’ll continue to do so.

Alvin: Since becoming a Legco member some five months ago, I’ve attended 93% of all council meetings and 95% of Finance Committee meetings. I’ve also sat on 12 panels and subcommittees. Meanwhile, I still keep up with my district work in New Territories East by advising residents on community issues.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with my pan-democratic colleagues to defend our freedom of expression by forcing the government to withdraw the Copyright (Amendment) Bill. In addition, I voted against the Medical Council Reform Bill after balancing the interests of medical practitioners and patients, as well as proposals to fund various wasteful construction projects, including a musical fountain in Kwun Tong, a Tiananmen Square replica in Tai Po, and the Moreton Terrace Community Hall in Wan Chai, none of which passed a basic cost-benefit analysis.

Ray: In the past four years as a lawmaker, I’ve been instrumental in blocking bad bills from being passed. More specifically, I led the battles to stop the Copyrights (Amendment) Bill that would have restricted the freedom of expression on the internet, the one belt, one road scholarship program that would have benefitted only foreign students, the Lantau Island reclamation project that would have put our environment at risk, as well as many other “white elephant” infrastructure projects.

I have a proven track record of leadership and keeping our unelected chief executive on his toes. In fact, my procedural tactics have been so effective that C.Y. Leung has to urge citizens not to vote for me or my allies in this election. Leung is afraid of filibusters – he even said so himself.

After all these years, Long Hair is as
defiant as ever against communist China 

Question 2: If you win, what issue(s) will you put at the top of your agenda and why?

Long Hair: I’ve spent the past four years fighting for a universal retirement scheme. Our government needs to share its wealth with the masses and give the elderly back their dignity. I’ll continue that fight in my next term.

Second, I’ll do all I can to resist Beijing’s interference in local affairs and infringement of our rights. I’ll stave off any attempt by our government to re-introduce an anti-subversion bill under Article 23 of the Basic Law – and, for that matter, any other attempt to limit our civil liberties. I’ll also challenge the legality of the Election Affairs Commission’s recent decisions to require Legco candidates to sign an additional declaration [accepting China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong] and to disqualify certain candidates from the race.

Third, I’ll continue to filibuster and use other procedural means to discharge our function of keeping the government in check.

Finally, I’ll provide support to the pro-democracy movement on the mainland with the ultimate goal of ending the one-party rule in China.

Alvin: I’d be grateful for the opportunity to continue my Legco work for another four years. Topping my agenda is an in-depth investigation, via Legco’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance, into C.Y. Leung’s undisclosed payment from UGL [an Australian engineering company], as well as his possible meddling in the appointment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) commissioner. I’ll also put forward an amendment to the ICAC Ordinance so that the commissioner won’t be accountable only to the chief executive. We need to increase both transparency and procedural fairness in the system.

As for social policies, I’ll push for a universal pension scheme and an amendment to Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance with the aim to ensure a dignified retirement life for our elderly and release their spending potential. I’ll also propose an amendment to the Building Management Ordinance to prevent flat owners from falling victim to contractors and property management companies who rig the bidding process under the mandatory building inspection scheme.

Ray: First of all, I’ll push for a universal pension scheme under which every senior citizen aged 65 or above will receive a monthly allowance of at least $3,500 without a means test. It’s important to point out that no new taxes will need to be raised under this proposal – the additional $15 to 18 billion a year will be well covered by our government’s annual fiscal surplus. The plan will have tremendous benefits: the increased allowance will give our elderly a reasonable quality of life and at the same time lessen the financial burden on their working children.

Second, I’ll spearhead a new law to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. I’ll press the government for a timetable for consultation and legislation, as well as funding for promoting awareness and policies against sexual discrimination.

Alvin vows to get to the bottom of C.Y. Leung’s
controversy payment from an overseas firm
    


Question 3: Our legislative process is plagued with the stubborn existence of the functional seats and unfair rules such as the “separate vote count” mechanism. When the system is so heavily stacked against the opposition, what will you do differently and what are you prepared to do that your predecessors haven’t already tried?

Long Hair: To date, my People Power colleagues and I are the only lawmakers committed to use of filibusters. Unfortunately, there are only three of us and we need reinforcement to hold the line against unwanted legislation and policies. We need more of us to exert maximum pressure on the government within and without the legislature.

The Umbrella Movement didn’t achieve its political goals, in part because the pan-democrats failed to take their non-cooperation campaign into Legco. Going forward, I’ll work harder with other opposition parties to broaden the scope of our collaboration and use Legco as a platform to garner public support for our resistance and raise civic awareness in society at large. There’s strength in numbers and unity.

Alvin: A constitutional amendment to level the playing field in the legislative process has always been on my agenda. More specifically, Article 74 of the Basic Law prohibits individual lawmakers from introducing bills relating to government policies. My fellow Civic Party members and I have been advocating an amendment to Article 74 to restore our role as policymakers.

Nevertheless, Article 159 of the Basic Law confers the power to propose any constitutional amendment to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the State Council and the HKSAR. That means before we can talk about amending Article 74, we need to educate the public and muster bottom-up support in society to pressure our government and Beijing to relent. I believe in laying the foundation for long-term change.

Ray: The majority of Hong Kong people support and vote for the pan-democrats, and yet our skewed political system ensures that the pro-establishment camp will always enjoy a majority vote in the legislature. As a result, pan-democratic lawmakers are stuck being the perpetual minority in Legco despite having a mandate from the public.

That’s why I’m prepared to exploit every Legco procedural rule to make our government more accountable. I hope to set an example for other pan-democrats and strengthen the voice of dissent.


Ray makes universal retirement protection
and sexual equality his top priorities


Question 4: What is your stance on independence? Do you either condemn or support the movement?

Long Hair: I don’t support independence. Hong Kong isn’t a race, and we still lack a coherent value system and distinct culture that would allow us to unilaterally declare ourselves a sovereign state. Separatism and isolationism won’t get us anywhere with China, especially considering [Chinese President] Xi Jinping’s nationalistic stance. Nor will they solve any of our deep-rooted problems such as a widening income gap, collusion between government and oligarchs, economic invasion by Chinese businesses and Beijing’s increasing political interference.

I do, however, support self-determination. The people of Hong Kong have the right to redraft our constitution. Independence is one of the many options we may consider.

Alvin: Hong Kongers should have the right to make decisions concerning their own future. Even though I’m not supportive of independence, I encourage political discourse and respect the right to freely discuss even sensitive topics.

The emergence of the independence movement is a direct result of the encroachment of our freedoms by C.Y. Leung and the Beijing government. Hong Kongers are disheartened by the perception that the one country, two systems framework no longer gives us the autonomy and civil liberties guaranteed in the Basic Law. In response to the broken promise of universal suffrage and the increasingly toxic relationship between the legislative and executive branches, we must fight tooth and nail for our self-determination.



Question 5: If you had to choose the next chief executive from the pro-Beijing camp, whom would you pick and why?

Long Hair: I won’t support any of them. To choose from the pro-Beijing camp is to be forced to pick your poison.

Frankly, that’s what’s wrong with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. For too long, we’ve played by the rules and prayed for a benevolent dictator. Without the courage to make sacrifices for our future, we’re all complicit in perpetuating the status quo.

Alvin: Regardless of which candidate is running for the chief executive office, I’m interested in only one thing: universal suffrage. I’ll push to reboot the electoral reform to secure the right to nominate and elect our chief executive without Beijing’s interference.

Ray: In 2014, the National People’s Congress unilaterally set the limits on how our chief executive is to be nominated and elected. The electoral reform bill drafted on that basis was eventually defeated in a humiliating 28-8 vote. As long as the chief executive election remains unfair and undemocratic based on rules set by Beijing, my party and I will refuse to endorse, nominate or vote for anyone who stands for election.


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Other top-of-the-ticket Legco candidates in the New Territories East geographical constituency include Christine Fong Kwok-shan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Liu Tin-shing, Chin Wan-kan, Cheung Chiu-hung, Raymond Mak Ka-chun, Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan, Hau Chi-keung, Dominic Lee Tsz-king, Tang Ka-piu, Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Estella Chan Yuk-ngor, Wong Sum-yu, Leticia Lee See-yin, Sixtus Leung Chung-hang, Clarence Ronald Leung Kam-shing, Yung Hoi-yan and Chan Hak-kan.


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This article also appeared on Hong Kong Free Press.



As posted on Hong Kong Free Press




28 August 2016

Legco Election Special: Part 3 - Kowloon West


The third instalment of my Legislative Council (Legco) election series covers Kowloon West. I put the same five questions to three choice candidates in the district and see how they stack up against each other.

My top picks in Kowloon West are League of Social Democrats’  Avery Ng Man-yuen 吳文遠(candidate #1), Civic Party’s Claudia Mo Man-ching毛孟靜(candidate #3) and Democracy Groundwork’s Lau Siu-lai 劉小麗(candidate #12).

Get out and vote!

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Question 1: Beyond rhetoric and slogans, what concrete action or achievements can you point to that distinguish you from other candidates?

Avery: I have a track record of social activism and street campaigns. I’ve also been a longtime advocate for the working class fighting for their rights and economic equality.

Claudia: A while back, an anti-stalking bill was submitted to Legco that could have hampered press freedom by making it easier for reporters to be charged with stalking. The bill was eventually shelved, and I believe I had played an instrumental role in garnering support from the local press corps and eventually pressuring the bill’s sponsor to withdraw it.

I’ve also been an outspoken advocate for animal rights. I helped set up an animal rights subcommittee in Legco to review existing legislation.

Siu-lai: I’ve spent a lot of time on political activism and community involvement. For example, I organized the Kweilin Street Day Market in Mongkok to promote outdoor markets as an alternative to big shopping malls like the ones run by Link [a dominant retail property operator]. The campaign allowed citizens to experience what it’s like to be a street vendor and to appreciate the need for a proper outdoor market policy.

I’m also committed to civic education. In the current political climate, it’s more critical than ever to educate the public about local politics. We need people to understand, analyze and formulate opinions about complex political issues before we can do something about them. Civic participation – the legacy of the Umbrella Movement – must continue.

Avery fights for the working class and
wants to legislate standard working hours    

Question 2: If you win, what issue(s) will you put at the top of your agenda and why?

Avery: My top priorities will be universal retirement protection, standard working hours and self-determination. The two first items have been on my party’s agenda for years and the third is something I intend to continue to fight for especially after the fallout of the pro-democracy movement in 2014.

Claudia: Every day, 150 new immigrants arrive in Hong Kong from mainland China. I intend to exercise our right under Article 22 of the Basic Law to review the newcomers’ entry qualifications. While family reunion is a reasonable ground for immigration, the current scheme is vulnerable to abuse and graft on the mainland [where local authorities approve the applications]. I even suspect some of the immigrants are being sent here to “dilute” our population. It is important that priority be given to those who come here for legitimate reasons.

Another issue I care about is animal rights. We need to scrap Cap 139B [under the Public Health (Animals and Birds) (Animal Traders) Regulations] that permits animal breeding on domestic premises. I share the view of many animal rights groups that CAP 139B encourages commercial breeding which is cruel and has to stop.

Siu-lai: My priorities are as follows: push back on “white elephant” infrastructure projects, implement a universal pension scheme, legislate standard working hours, reform housing policy, and restart electoral reform. These are all burning issues I hold near to my heart.

Claudia wants to vet mainland immigrants
and reform animal rights legislation    

Question 3: Our legislative process is plagued with the stubborn existence of the functional seats and unfair rules such as the “separate vote count” mechanism. When the system is so heavily stacked against the opposition, what will you do differently and what are you prepared to do that your predecessors haven’t already tried?

Avery: Because of the unfair rules you mentioned, the only way for the opposition to push back bad legislation is the use of filibusters. The more lawmakers there are to filibuster, the greater the pressure we put on our government.

But filibusters are only a defensive tactic. To bring about real changes to our political system, we need to take to the streets and wage a popular movement. I’ll continue to work both within and without the legislature to make that happen.

Claudia: I’m not sure if there’s much I‘ll do differently. Then again, if we don’t fight, we certainly won’t get anything. If we do fight, we might get something. So you bet I’ll be fighting my very best for the city.

Siu-lai: I won’t hesitate to filibuster or use other procedural tactics to oppose unjust bills in Legco. I’ll occupy the chairman’s seat if that’s what it takes.

At the same time, I intend to continue my community outreach to galvanize public support on important political issues. We need greater civic awareness and participation to force the government to make compromise.

A university lecturer, Siu Lai understands the
importance of civic education and participation    

Question 4: What is your stance on independence? Do you either condemn or support the movement?

Avery: I fully agree that Hong Kongers should have the right to determine their fate, including whether to separate from China.

But the communist regime is also very powerful. For the independence movement to have any chance of success, I believe we need to join forces with the pro-democracy movement on the mainland instead of isolating ourselves.

Claudia: On the subject of independence, we seem to know the “why,” but not the “how.” Look at it this way: the city gets some 80% of its drinking water and 30% of its power from Guangdong, China. It simply isn’t a practical choice at this point in time.

That said, it doesn’t mean we should condemn the idea or suppress the discussion of it. I’m all for free speech and free will. The youth are talking about 2047 [when the one country, two systems policy expires], which is more than 30 years away. By then I’m probably not around any more. It’s their future, and they have every right to talk about it.

Siu-lai: I personally don’t support independence, because I don’t believe Hong Kong at the moment has what it takes to secede from mainland China.

Still, I agree we need to start thinking collectively about our future, whether it is independence or continuing with the one country, new systems framework. Either alternative should be based on the notion of self-determination and will inevitably involve a struggle. I feel duty-bound to get the public involved in this discussion now.


Question 5: If you had to choose the next chief executive from the pro-Beijing camp, whom would you pick and why?

Avery: Any chief executive chosen by an undemocratic system will be no different from C.Y. Leung. It isn’t a matter of who is elected but rather how that person is elected. Unless and until we reform the electoral system, it doesn’t make much difference whether it’s Leung or someone else who takes the job.

Claudia: The names that have been floated so far aren’t much of a choice. These bureaucrats are all mere cardboard cut-outs and I won’t support or vote for any of them.

Siu-lai: This is a tough question. I can’t think of anyone in the pro-Beijing camp who’s qualified to lead Hong Kong. None of the so-called “frontrunners” is committed to democracy or solving our livelihood issues. Only a chief executive elected through genuine universal suffrage instead of a “small circle” election has the legitimacy and mandate to serve Hong Kong.


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Other top-of-the-ticket Legco candidates in the Kowloon West geographical constituency include Jonathan Ho Chi-kwong, Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Tam Kwok-kiu, Chu Siu-hung, Raymond Wong Yuk-man, Wong Pik-wan, Lam Yi-lai, Ann Chiang Lai-wan, Kwan San-wai, Yau Wai-ching, Augustine Lee Wing-hon, Tik Chi-yuen.


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This article also appeared on Hong Kong Free Press.


As posted on Hong Kong Free Press





25 August 2016

Legco Election Special: Part 2 - Kowloon East


The second installment of our Legislative Council (Legco) election series takes us to Kowloon East, where three candidates I select from the opposition camp are given an opportunity to make their case to you by answering my five questions.

Incidentally, my top picks in Kowloon East all share the same last name: Tam (none of them is related to each other). They are Frontier’s  Mandy Tam Heung-man 譚香文 (candidate #4), Civic Party’s Jeremy Tam Man-ho 譚文豪 (candidate #9) and People Power’s “Fast Beat” Tam Tak-chi 快必譚得志 (candidate #12).


Get out and vote!

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Question 1: Beyond rhetoric and slogans, what concrete action or achievements can you point to that distinguish you from other candidates?

Mandy: I’ve been doing district work in Kowloon East for over 20 years – that’s not a claim that many of my opponents can make. Furthermore, I was a Legco member between 2004 and 2008, which has given me valuable experience working with other lawmakers and understanding the ins and outs of the legislative process.

Jeremy: My background is transport engineering, an area in which the current Legco lacks expertise. I also have ample district work experience, having assisted residents in Laguna City [a large-scale residential development in Kwun Tong] in thwarting a proposal to build a hotel on Cha Kwo Ling Road, which effort had prevented a huge loss of public space.

In the past year, I’ve devoted much of my time to the so-called “Bag-gate” incident [in which C.Y. Leung was accused of using his position as chief executive to let his daughter bypass airport security]. I organized a petition to collect nearly 36,000 signatures from concerned citizens. I even flew to Bangkok to submit a complaint letter to the regional office of the International Civil Aviation Organization. I believe Legco needs new blood like myself who can work effectively both within and without the legislature.

Fast Beat: I’m a fighter who believes in active resistance. I can think outside the box and will exhaust every possible procedural means in the Legco rulebook to raise our government’s political cost and hold them accountable. I believe that’s the only way they would back down and make compromises.

Mandy is a seasoned politician and a
stalwart advocate for civil nomination
in the chief executive election
    

Question 2: If you win, what issue(s) will you put at the top of your agenda and why?

Mandy: The two items that top my agenda are genuine universal suffrage with civil nomination [the proposal to allow individual citizens to nominate candidates in the  chief executive election] and better retirement protection.

On the second issue, I’ll push the government to raise the amount of fruit money [old age allowance] to $3,500 a month [from the current level of $1,290] without requiring a means test. Our elderly have worked their whole life for Hong Kong and it’s time we showed them some respect by providing a reasonable pension.

Jeremy: I support the use of Legco’s Powers and Privileges Ordinance to look into the recent series of management reshuffle at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), and determine whether it was the handy work of certain Beijing loyalists. The ICAC is a source of pride for Hong Kongers and probity has long been a cornerstone in our society. We won’t allow it to be destroyed by individuals who put themselves above the law.

Fast Beat: My focus will be universal suffrage. I’ll push for a reboot of the failed electoral reform in 2015. I see that as the only effective way to protect our city and safeguard our civil liberties. It’s also the only way to achieve true autonomy.

Jeremy is a commercial pilot who wants
to bring aviation expertise and
a breath of fresh air to Legco
    

Question 3: Our legislative process is plagued with the stubborn existence of the functional seats and unfair rules such as the “separate vote count” mechanism. When the system is so heavily stacked against the opposition, what will you do differently and what are you prepared to do that your predecessors haven’t already tried?

Mandy: I admit it’s very difficult for us to change the separate vote count and other unfair Legco rules. One possible solution is to put more pan-democrats in the functional constituencies to garner enough votes in the legislature to abolish those seats.

Jeremy: I believe every bill that comes through Legco should be carefully reviewed and sufficiently debated. In recent years, the government has been ramming controversial policies and funding requests through the legislature with increasing impunity. In response, I’m prepared to use all non-violent means, including filibusters, to resist bad legislation. At the same time, I’ll work outside Legco to garner public support for these efforts.

Fast Beat: I firmly believe in active resistance. Over the past four years, my People Power colleagues have been effective in reining in the government using various procedural tactics.

We could have been even more effective if there were more of us. What we need is a handful more lawmakers from People Power and the League of Social Democrats working in Legco to strengthen our voice and put more pressure on our government.

Fast Beat is a self-described fighter who
believes the CCP will crumble like
the Berlin Wall
    

Question 4: What is your stance on independence? Do you either condemn or support the movement?

Mandy: I don’t support the independence movement. I’m not convinced that it’s the right thing to do at the moment.

Jeremy: I personally don’t support the independence movement, but I strongly believe that Hong Kongers should have a say in determining our fate beyond 2047 [when the one country, two systems policy ends].

Fast Beat: My People Power colleagues and I want true autonomy for Hong Kong – we can have something akin to the Tibetan government in exile. To achieve that, we have come up with a half-dozen proposed amendments to the Basic Law.

I don’t know whether the Basic Law would survive after 2047. I believe it’s pointless, even unethical, to negotiate our future with the autocratic regime in China. If the Soviet Bloc could collapse overnight, and if the Berlin Wall could come down in an instant, then why can’t the Chinese Communist Party?


Question 5: If you had to choose the next chief executive from the pro-Beijing camp, whom would you pick and why?

Mandy: I won’t choose anyone from the pro-Beijing camp, and I refuse to participate in an election with pre-determined candidates. As I mentioned earlier, the only form of chief executive election I’ll accept is one that involves some form of civil nomination.

Jeremy: I’ll only vote for someone who supports a truly democratic election without any pre-screening and rejects the 8/31 framework [an announcement concerning the 2017 chief executive election issued by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on August 31st, 2014, that rejected, among other things, civil nomination].

Fast Beat: I won’t endorse or vote for any candidate in a “small circle” election [at present, only members of an exclusive election committee have the right to select the chief executive]. I simply won’t accept any form of chief executive election without one person, one vote or civil nomination.


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Other top-of-the-ticket Legco candidates in the Kowloon East geographical constituency include Wong Kwok-kin, Wu Sui-shan, Patrick Ko Tat-pun, Paul Tse Wai-chun, Wilson Or Chong-shing, Lui Wing-kei, Wu Chi-wai, Wong Yeung-tat and Chan Chak-to.



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This article also appeared on Hong Kong Free Press.


As posted on Hong Kong Fress Press