Beijing Encourages Hong Kong’s Rural Council to Oppose Chief Executive
Hong Kong’s most powerful rural advisory body, the Heung Yee Kuk or Rural Council, has suddenly announced that they intend to form a party to gain political strength.
This party will oppose Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as well as the Leung-supporting local Jiang Zemin faction of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Jiang Zemin is a former head of the CCP who has sought to keep his faction in power, even though Jiang left office over a decade ago.
On Jan. 10, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat joined an anti-Leung meeting in Beijing with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping, Vice Chair Li Yuanchao, and other CCP officials. Also in attendance were the chairmen and vice chairmen of 18 Hong Kong District Councils and the Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs, Tsang Tak-sing.
No one from the the faction of Jiang Zemin was invited to this high-level meeting, where Xi Jinping reportedly spoke to the group of Hong Kongers about overriding Leung. It was mentioned in the meeting that they should not side with Leung on key issues such as constitutional reform.
Leung has been widely unpopular because of his underground support of the CCP. The Heung Yee Kuk showed strong dissatisfaction after Leung came into power, and conflict between Leung and the Heung Yee Kuk has intensified in an unprecedented way.
At end of 2013, the Legislative Council (LegCo) of Hong Kong voted against Lau Wong-fat’s amendment to exclude the Tai Long Sai Wan beach from the Sai Kung Country Park. Around 2,500 villagers were mobilized to stand outside the legislative building to show solidarity, worried that if Lau’s motion was rejected it would infringe on their property rights. The motion was rejected due to split voting.
Former LegCo member Wong Sing-chi said that indigenous inhabitants of Hong Kong’s New Territories, such as Lau and the Heung Yee Kuk members, have always been quite supportive of the previous Chief Executives. However, they are very dissatisfied with Leung.
Despite their support for the government, Wong Sing-chi said, in the end there is no member representing these people, and their interests and rights are not protected. Especially in the past, pro-establishment legislators had to rely on Lau to get votes, but now they act against the wishes of indigenous villagers in the New Territories, according to Wong.
This has made the villagers very discontented not only with Leung, but also with the pro-Beijing, pro-establishment camp and royalist faction, Wong observed.
The Heung Yee Kuk has reportedly been approved to form a party by the Liaison Office in Hong Kong. Ever since CCP official Zhang Xiaoming became the director of the Liaison Office, Leung has lost support.
Wong said that members of the Heung Yee Kuk are dissatisfied with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), both of which support Leung.
“At this time they see that the DAB and FTU disregard the interests of indigenous villagers in the New Territories at LegCo,” said Wong. “They made the villagers even more unhappy by not objecting to the government’s motion to include the Tai Long Sai Wan beach in the Country Park.”
“Therefore as soon as Lau Wong-fat appealed, most villagers responded. They just need one convener, such as Lau, and the majority of villagers will come out to support him,” said Wong.
Albert Chan, who is competing for a seat in the New Territories West constituency at LegCo, said he thought that even if the Heung Yee Kuk forms a party, they might not break from the pro-establishment or Leung on certain issues. They tend to protect their own interests through seeking political forces, Chan explained.
He believes that the Heung Yee Kuk also will not break away from the scope of the CCP’s strategy for unifying Hong Kong with the mainland.
“The Liaison Office has the means and methods to ‘unify,’” said Chan. “It depends on how the Heung Yee Kuk will cope with different forces. Otherwise, they will soon be disintegrated by the Liaison Office.”
Translated by Y.K. Lu. Written in English by Sally Appert.