Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu has suggested that, instead of electing a pro-Beijing member as the president of the new Legislative Council, the position should be taken by a veteran pro-democracy lawmaker.
Yeung suggested James To Kun-sun of the Democratic Party and Leung Yiu-chung of the Neighbourhood and Worker’s Service Centre, saying they are “absolutely qualified for the position.” To and Leung first became lawmakers in 1991 and 1995, respectively.
The president, elected by LegCo members, can preside over all meetings, maintain order in the chamber, decide the agenda and time of meetings and call special out-of-hours sessions. Yeung said the president must be neutral, maintain distance from party interests, and be capable of regaining the public’s trust in the legislature.
“In exercising the rules of procedures, the president must adopt a looser approach rather than a stricter one, so that in reading and understanding the rules of procedures, the president must put the interests of lawmakers first, in order to gain the respect of a majority of lawmakers,” he said in a video message to his supporters.
The president usually does not cast a vote. Yeung said democrats should not be deterred by the fact that the pro-democracy camp would lose a vote in the legislature if one of its own was elected president.
Yeung said he agreed that the president would likely be a pro-Beijing camp member based on past experience. Previous presidents Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai and Jasper Tsang Yok-sing both belong to the camp. The new legislature will have 40 members in the pro-Beijing camp and 30 in the pro-democracy camp.
“But should we stop running when we know we don’t have a chance? Of course not, we should compete with the pro-Beijing camp,” he said. “The president has great power over decisions on the legislature agenda and the operation of the legislature, so we should try to take the position.”
Yeung said even if the pro-democracy camp was unlikely to win the race, they should run to pressure the pro-Beijing camp into a presidential debate.
“To see how familiar the candidates are on the rules of procedure, and force them to make promises such as to give up on attending their party’s meetings and on internal work – these [concerns] are all practical,” he said.
At the same time, Yeung’s video message showed Jasper Tsang’s Whatsapp conversation with pro-Beijing camp lawmakers during the vote on the government’s political reform package last year. Tsang wrote “the thief has come!” to tell the group that lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip had returned to the chamber.
In the 40-strong pro-Beijing camp, the four votes from the Liberal Party could be vital in helping a member get automatically elected as president.
Michael Tien Puk-sun of the New People’s Party has stated his interest to run. However, outgoing lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun, who is his older brother, suggested that the Liberal Party should not support the younger Tien.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) was one of the more prominent rumoured choices, as he was often the acting president in the last term. The Liberal Party may not support him, as the BPA previously split from the party.
Other rumoured choices were independent lawmakers Paul Tse Wai-chun and Martin Liao Cheung-kong. Tse is a solicitor and Liao is a barrister.
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee of the New People’s Party and Starry Lee Wai-king of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, both party chairs, have stated they have no intention of running for LegCo president.