HONG KONG: Dominic Lee stands on a chair outside a wet market in working class Tai Po district, repeating the same message over and over again to passers-by.
“We demand a new Chief Executive. We want a harmonious society,” he almost shouts in Cantonese through a loud speaker.
In English, that message has been condensed into a punchier catch phrase – ABC, which in the context of present day Hong Kong means “Anyone But CY,” a direct attack on CY Leung, the city’s unpopular leader.
“We believe anyone can do a better job than CY,” Lee, who is running for the upcoming Legislative Council election next Sunday (Sep 4) for the first time, told Channel NewsAsia.
Dominic Lee's campaign flyer features only one message: "We demand a new Chief Executive." (Photo: Wei Du)
Since the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong two years ago failed to lead to universal suffrage, the government of CY Leung has been hamstrung by filibustering in the legislature. Repeated attempts by pan-democrats to halt bill hearings on the grounds of low attendance by legislators have prevented the government from introducing an updated copyright law and making the country's medical watchdog more responsive.
But Dominic Lee is not an avid fan of democracy. He comes from a wealthy merchant family, and represents the pro-Beijing Liberal Party. But his loyalty is not extended to the Beijing-anointed chief executive.
“We've seen three chief executives since the handover. No one was talking about Hong Kong independence before CY Leung,” Lee said. “There wasn’t so much polarisation before him.”
A surprise turn of events in 2012 lead to a last-minute switch that anointed CY Leung as Hong Kong’s top official. Even though his selection was sanctioned by Beijing, many pro-Beijing legislators in Hong Kong did not support him. Since then, Leung has galvanized them with his hardline tactics. He once said his position was “above the law,” drawing rebukes from pan-democrats and pro-Beijing politicians alike.
If the Liberal Party has been the only one within the pro-Beijing camp to openly air its opposition to CY Leung, analysts said many other parties have chosen to quietly adopt the same strategy.
"If all of the pro-establishment legislators were present, and they actually sat in the legislature, filibustering would have never worked for the pan-democrats,” said Mathew Wong, who teaches politics at University of Hong Kong. “The fact that the pan-democrats are largely successful in filibustering up until this point is a reflection of the fact that the pro-establishment camp might not be fully supportive of the current government."
But Leung isn’t the first Hong Kong leader who has faced political desertion. In 2003, Liberal Party legislator James Tien resigned from the Executive Council of Hong Kong’s first Chinese leader Tung Chee-Hwa after hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers went onto the street to protest the introduction of national security legislation. Tien’s resignation eventually led to the withdrawal of the bill. Tung resigned from his post less than two years later.
Analysts said the lack of support for the administration lies in what they call a design flaw in Hong Kong’s political system. According to the city’s mini-constitution the Basic Law, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong cannot have any party affiliation.
“Beijing would not want to see a ruling party in any form, pro-Beijing or not, to be governing a Chinese territory,” Wong said.
But that decision means that the chief executive would have no permanent ally in the legislature, where most members have to face popular elections every four years.
“For other political systems, particularly democracies, opposition parties inside the legislature find it in their interest to criticise the government, because they want to bring down the government, they want to be in power in the next election. But in Hong Kong, when you don’t have a ruling party, every political party in the legislature is potentially an opposition party,” Wong said. “You can't enact policies. You can only criticise the government in order to gain popularity.”
If the design doesn’t change, analysts say it’s difficult to see how filibustering would end even if more pro-Beijing legislators are returned.
“On important issues on which Beijing has a very clear stance, pro-establishment legislators have no choice but to toe the Beijing line,” said Joseph Cheng, an independent political analyst. “But on various smaller issues on which Beijing does not have a position, then the pro-establishment legislators and political groups usually tend to feel quite free to criticise and oppose the administration.“