Lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun has left the pro-Beijing New People’s Party (NPP) owing to differences in political ideals.
He formed the party in 2011 with veteran lawmaker Regina Ip. He served as vice-chairman and maintains that he still has good relationship with Ip.
“Unfortunately, friends may not be good partners in politics,” said Tien, whose withdrawal has been rumoured for some time. “It’s not a secret we have differences in ideals.”
Tien, also a Tsuen Wan district councillor, left the party with six other district councillors of the New Territories West area, but he insisted it was their own will to follow him. He said he was not poaching them to form a new party.
The NPP had 12 district councillors in the area but now it will only have five.
Tien chose to quit after last month’s chief executive election, during which Ip failed to gain enough nominations to become a candidate.
Stick to political views
Asked if he withdrew from NPP because he was not supported by Ip to be the LegCo president, Tien insisted that the differences between them had accumulated over the years.
“This choice of timing will bring the least negative effects upon the party,” Tien said. He said it is now in between election cycles and it would allow time for him and the NPP to make plans for the future.
Tien said it would be easier to consolidate his support within the party, but he has to stick to his political views.
He cited a famous quote from former Cuban leader Fidel Castro: “I began the revolution with 82 men. If I had to do it again, I would do it with 10 or 15 and absolute faith.”
Tien was formerly a member of the pro-Beijing Liberal Party. He withdrew from it in 2010 owing to differences in politics, namely in that he supported a minimum wage, contrary to the party’s veteran lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the catering sector.
“I must admit, why always me? I sort-of have an answer: maybe I joined because of a misunderstanding, and I left because of understanding,” he said. “Some friends have told me, politically, I am quite difficult, because I stick to my views – it’s easy that I offend people from all sides.”
He said that despite being from the business sector – Tien was the founder of the G2000 clothing retail chain – he supported a goods and service tax and paternity leave policies.
He said one of his major differences with the NPP was that he supported the cancellation of a scheme whereby employers can use employees’ Mandatory Provident Fund pension money to cover severance payments.
Another major difference was that he supported a limitation to multi-entry permits for mainland travellers, whilst Ip did not.
“All in all, I believed Hong Kong people felt the fear – more and more travellers without control – it was also bad for the country as it provided political leverage for ‘anti-locust’ activists,” he said. “I supported it for the benefit of the relationship between Hong Kong and China.”
But he said he was proud of the achievements of the NPP.
Tien received 70,646 votes in the 2016 Legislative Council election in the New Territories West area, which was the second highest level of support in the area.
He said he believed he performed well in local district work and that he may retain the support.
Barrister Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a relatively new comer to politics, is the NPP’s other lawmaker.
No opinion from Liaison Office
Tien said he would not quit his LegCo seat like former lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who withdrew from the Civic Party.
He said he has notified the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s official organ in Hong Kong which was often said to be a supporter behind the NPP.
“They have no opinion, they respected my choice,” Tien said. He added he will maintain a good relationship with the central government.
Tien, 66, would not rule out another run for a LegCo seat but said it would depend on his age and energy.
He also did not rule out another run as the Hong Kong delegate of the National People’s Congress, but he said he was often busy.