Lawmaker Regina Ip has said that Michael Tien Puk-sun’s departure from her New People’s Party (NPP) was unfortunate but it will not affect the party’s morale.
Tien, a pro-Beijing lawmaker and a district councillor, left the party owing to differences in political ideals with Ip. Six district councillors from Tien’s New Territories West area followed Tien in leaving the NPP.
“I feel he needs more space in making remarks more independently, without the limitation of a party,” Ip said. “Every man likes more space, I understand that well.”
Ip said she would apologise if there was any unhappiness between them: “Maybe I have been too direct, hurting his dignity as a woman, I need to reflect deeply.”
Tien and Ip co-founded the party in 2011, after Tien left the Liberal Party in 2010. He served as the vice-chairman.
“It is of course very unfortunate, but our morale will not be affected – those who remained support NPP very much, I believe we will be more united,” she said.
Ip said Tien gave verbal notice of his withdrawal three weeks ago, and the party had asked him to stay. She added that she called Tien but he was not reachable.
A major difference between the two was that Tien supported a limitation to multi-entry permits for mainland travellers, whilst Ip did not.
Ip said in response: “In my view, setting a limitation could have created a great shock on the mainland and bring negative views.” She added that Hong Kong tourism took a big hit.
“Facts have proven me right. Even Mr Tien’s own business was affected. It’s not about not supporting him, it’s just a normal discussion.”
Ip dismissed claims that Tien withdrew from the NPP because the party was too close to the China Liaison Office, Beijing’s official organ in Hong Kong.
She said Tien, as a delegate to the National People’s Congress, often attend meetings in Beijing: “He knows more people from the coordination department and the united front department than me.”
Ip did not support Tien to become the LegCo president, and chose to support Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who was seen as the Liaison Office’s pick.
Ip said the NPP has been prepared for the news as rumours have been flying for some time.
“It’s stated in our party’s charter: free to come and free to go,” she said. “This is quite normal, it happens to political parties everywhere.”
“I see no problem in continuing working with Mr Tien as fellow legislative councillors.”
She added that Tien moved his room at the Legislative Council in order to keep some distance from the party.
Tien’s decision came six month’s after the 2016 LegCo election. He said on Monday that his election, with more than 70,000 votes, was likely because of the good work in local districts.
Ip said she would not ask Tien to quit his seat, with reference to a tradition whereby legislators step down from their seat if quitting their party.
“I would not make a fuss about that,” she said. “I believe Mr Tien will run again few years later, then we will know how much support he has. I believe he has a lot.”
Ip and barrister Eunice Yung Hoi-yan, a relative newcomer to politics, are now the only two NPP lawmakers.
Ip said she and Tien were of the same age – both were 66, with Ip two days older – and said they should be thinking about their successors.
“We must find someone with the same ideals, the sincerity, but not someone who just wants to join the NPP as a vice-chairman,” she said.
Dr. Louis Shih Tai-cho, another founding member of the NPP, left the party in 2014 for a non-party-affiliated run with the Medical Association.