Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching has tendered her withdrawal from the pro-democracy Civic Party, of which she was a founding member in 2006. Her withdrawal is effective immediately though she will continue serving as an independent democrat with the group “Hong Kong First.”
“My resignation results from differences, irreconcilable differences, on a number of issues including localism, filibuster and party positioning. I will continue to use my position to press for more democracy, accountability and social justice, in collaboration with different democratic forces,” she said.
Mo and former lawmaker Gary Fan Kwok-wai, of the Neo Democrats, formed the platform “Hong Kong First” which pushes for a more progressive agenda compared to traditional pan-democrats. They seek to protect Hong Kong people’s interests and local culture, on issues such as the use of Cantonese as a teaching medium.
“I am seeking an amicable parting of the ways with the party,” she said.
Mo and Fan were not considered by most localists to be members of the camp, who often distance themselves from traditional pan-democrats.
Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, the party’s leader, said it was unfortunate that Mo left the party, but she respected her decision and thanked her for her contribution in developing the Kowloon West subdivision of the party and for backing issues related to animal rights and ethnic minorities.
She recalled “happy days” with the party until 2010, when she said she felt “a great disappointment.”
She recalled party members Joseph Cheng Yu-shek and Kenneth Chan Ka-lok were racing to be party chairman, but Cheng and Chan attracted very different levels of support in the party. She said party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit and six top management members supported Chan.
“One of them told me at the time the support for Chan was because he promised he would not join the Legislative Council race,” she said. Chan became a lawmaker between 2012 and 2016.
“Cheng did not put this incident into his mind. But I personally thought ‘the party’s operation was like this’, the differences, the unhappiness in my heart started from that moment,” she said.
Audrey Eu said that the internal race between Cheng and Chan in 2010 which Mo criticised was a democratic election. She added that Chan was called upon by the party in 2012 to run for a LegCo seat: “He is a good person, he lives far away [from Hong Kong island], but he wanted to help.”
She said when she ran for LegCo seat in 2012, someone in the party asked her not to use the slogan “reject mainlandisation.”
“Please follow the party and say ‘reject red influence’ – I didn’t even bother,” she said. “‘Red influence’ is about the system, but ‘mainlandisation’ is about the overall way of life – at the time, people could already see individual tourists [from China] occupying the streets.”
She added that her voting record was “always different” from the party on issues related to localism and filibustering over the past four years.
She said that she started to consider resigning two years ago. Mo said that she did not resign from the party earlier because of political developments recently, including the occupy protests, the District Council election and the Legislative Council election.
“During the LegCo election [this year], something happened, which made my bad feeling bigger,” she said. “But I will not tell of the whole incident because not only it may affect me, it may hurt other people.”
“They have this particular saying – It’s not the tree’s appearance but the death of its roots that tells what it is… there is a difference between physically being there and the heart being there,” she said.
Mo, a former journalist, first became a lawmaker in 2012 in the Kowloon West constituency. She was re-elected in September for another four-year term.
The Civic Party stemmed from the Article 23 Concern Group, which was formed by veteran lawyers expressing their concern over the national security law legislation in 2003. It was transformed into the Article 45 Concern Group to campaign on the issue of universal suffrage and ultimately became the Civic Party.
Earlier on Monday, when news of her potential withdrawal from the party was reported by local media, she posted on her social media account a photo of a yellow umbrella – a symbol of the pro-democracy occupy protests in 2014 – and said that “[I] will not forget my original intention. Keep our eyes on the goal”.
With Mo’s departure, the Civic Party is left with five lawmakers in the legislature, including lawyers Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Tanya Chan Suk-chong and Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, aeroplane pilot Jeremy Tam Man-ho and doctor Kwok Ka-ki.
Unlike former party member Ronny Tong Ka-wah, Mo will not resign from her LegCo seat. Tong said at the time that it would be “quite wrong” to retain his LegCo seat if he were to withdraw from the party. His resignation triggered a by-election in February.
Mo said the policies that she pushed for, including English-language education, animal rights and local interests, were mostly unrelated to the party. She said she believed that voters elected her because of her platforms, and she had rarely used the party’s resources in running for the seat. Therefore, she did not need to resign from her lawmaker position like Ronny Tong.