With the district councillor elections looming this Sunday, the fight is getting dirty in Tsing Yi as accusations and attacks are thrown in all directions. An incumbent councillor has been accused to defecting from pan-dem to pro-establishment in a crucial district.
Photo: Youngspiration’s Wong Chun-Kit confronts Chan Siu-man (right) about his political allegiance. (Photo provided by local residents)
Chan Siu-man (陳笑文), incumbent district councillor of the Tsing Yi Estate (青衣邨) constituency since 1991 and former member of pan-democratic group ADPL, has been accused by former backers defecting to the pro-establishment camp on the sly. This came after his name appeared on a list of candidates recommended by a known pro-Beijing group. He has since denied such allegations and proclaimed his stance as a pan-democrat.
On Sunday, Youngspiration’s Kenny Wong Chun-Kit (黃俊傑), who is running for district councillor in neighbouring Cheung On (長安) constituency, confronted Mr Chan about his name appearing in a list of candidates recommended by the Hong Kong Federation of Fujian Associations (福建社團聯會), a known pro-Beijing group.
A video that was given to HT, showed the incumbent candidate Chan Siu-man being confronted while he was campaigning in Tsing Yi. Chan ignored the accusations made against him while his wife reacted angrily towards Wong. Wong is running against DAB’s Law King-shing (羅競成) and the Democratic Party’s Ho Chi-wai (何志偉).
A significant district
Kwai Tsing district is significant for the pan-democrats as it is seen as the sole district where they have a chance of winning a majority in the district’s council, given the abolishment of appointed seats in this election.
Before this year’s elections, Kwai Tsing District Council (DC) had 35 seats, comprising 29 elected seats, 5 appointed seats and 1 ex-officio seat (filled by the Chairman of the Rural Committees in the district). Fifteen of the incumbent councillors are considered, or have claimed in the past to be, democrats, including Chan. If all incumbents retain their seats, pan-democrats would have the majority vote in Kwai Tsing district.
Ms Fung Siu-ping (馮笑萍), who is also a resident of Tsing Yi Estate and a member of the Owners’ Corporation, was Mr Chan’s assistant in the district office for 18 years, but left in October two years ago. Ms Fung cites Chan’s negligence of district work as the reason for her resignation. “After he was re-elected in 2011, I asked him to have at least one day dedicated to seeing his constituents. Up until the day I left he hadn’t done any of that. He’s seldom in the office and I was always forced to bring documents to him outside to sign.”
During her stint in Chan’s office, Ms Fung says Chan was never a true democrat. ”His stance has never truly been pan-democratic in my opinion. Every year he sponsors a Chinese Opera event organised by DAB veteran Au Yeung Po Chun (歐陽寶珍),“ says Ms Fung. “From what I’ve seen he doesn’t really have any friends in the district council, except his brother-in-law Chow Yik-hei (周奕希).”
Chan’s brother-in-law Chow Yik-hei is the incumbent district councilor in Lai King constituency, also in the Kwai Tsing district. Chow is the former chairman of the Kwai Tsing district council and is a former member of the Democratic Party after he quit in January this year. He has since joined fellow ex-DP members Nelson Wong Sing-chi (黃成智) and Tik Chi-yuen’s (狄志遠) new political platform, the Third Side (新思維). There have also been reports he has been appointed as the CPPCC delegate for Zhaoqing (肇慶), indicating his defection to the pro-establishment. He has already won his constituency uncontested, but was also included on the Federation of Fujian Associations endorsed list of candidates.
The man in question
Mr Chan was approached to respond to the accusations. He blamed them on smearing tactics from the opposition. “These allegations happen all the time during elections,” he says. When asked whether he could categorically state whether he was still part of the pan-democrat camp, he replied, “I’ve always been a democrat, there’s no need to clarify.”
“I do not need to make a promise [I’m still a democrat]. For 24 years I’ve had my own ideas and have worked in the districts,” Mr Chan commented. “If not I wouldn’t have an opponent backed by the FTU. These [allegations] are only attempts to smear my name.”
Mr Chan claims Ms Fung lacks credibility given the fact she has been seen campaigning on behalf of FTU-backed Cheng Hiu-ling (鄭曉玲), Chan’s opponent. “I don’t know whether she’s paid, but almost every day she can be seen helping Cheng’s campaign.” Also running in the constituency are independent candidate Yu Lap-on (余立安), and former beauty pageant winner, Uny Chiu (趙哲妤), who claims to be independent but is a former member of the New People’s Party.
“They are obviously part of the pro-establishment, they’re trying to make it so the pro-establishment won’t vote for me, and neither will democrats,” says Chan.
Ms Fung admits she has volunteered with Cheng, saying, “I’ve seen her work, and she does a good job doing district work. Personally, it doesn’t matter where their allegiances are when it comes to district work, as long as they have the heart to do it. Chan’s change of stance is a factor but I stopped supporting mostly because he has stopped wanting to help local residents. A lot of residents have told me he doesn’t pick up the phone, and a lot of cases have been forced to go to Cheng.”
Ms Fung, and two other residents who used to back Chan, cite the fact that Chan’s office distributes pro-Beijing publication Wenweipo (文匯報) for free, something unusual for a pan-democrat candidate, as evidence he has defected.
Mr Chan says his office also distributed Epoch Times (大紀元), an anti-CCP publication. He says his office has stopped distributing both. Residents Harbour Times was able to reach have confirmed Chan’s office has stopped distributing free newspapers closer to the elections, but none have seen Epoch Times ever being given out.
When asked to explain why he gave out Wenweipo at all, Mr Chan said, “Sorry. No more answer.”
Whether Mr Chan is a pan-democrat or a member of the pro-establishment remains a for voters to decide. Given the significance of this particular district, his ties with Chow Yik-hei, whose stance is also questionable, his inclusion in a pro-Beijing backed list, and apparent distribution of Wenweipo, give occasion for those who would call him pro-establishment to raise the alarm.
Voters presumably have enough experience of him to make a decision as to how well he has served the district. As to what is in his heart, the only way to find out is to elect him and see which way the balance goes in this district that sits on a knife’s edge of control between the two camps.