US embassy cable - 06HONGKONG1072

ARTICLE 45 CONCERN GROUP FORMS HONG KONG'S NEWEST POLITICAL PARTY

Identifier: 06HONGKONG1072
Wikileaks: View 06HONGKONG1072 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Hong Kong
Created: 2006-03-15 09:26:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PREL CH HK
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO9113
OO RUEHCN
DE RUEHHK #1072/01 0740926
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 150926Z MAR 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5499
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HONG KONG 001072 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/CM 
NSC FOR DENNIS WILDER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/15/2031 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, CH, HK 
SUBJECT: ARTICLE 45 CONCERN GROUP FORMS HONG KONG'S NEWEST 
POLITICAL PARTY 
 
REF: HONG KONG 641 
 
Classified By: E/P Section Chief Simon Schuchat; Reasons 1.4 (b, d) 
 
1. (C) Summary:  On March 19, Hong Kong's Article 45 Concern 
Group plans to announce the formal inauguration of its new 
political party, the "Civic Party," with Article 45 
co-founder and Legislative Councilor Audrey Eu as the party's 
first parliamentary leader.  Two independent democrats in the 
Legislative Council (Legco), Fernando Cheung and Mandy Tam, 
already have joined the new party, bringing its total number 
of Legco members to six.  The party intends to defer 
consideration of any possible merger with the Democratic 
Party until after the 2008 Legco election.  Article 45 
Concern Group founding member and Legislative Councilor 
Margaret Ng told the Consul General that the most important 
task for the new party would be to build a popular base which 
could be mobilized to influence government planning and 
actions.  Similarly, Article 45 Concern Group Legco member 
Alan Leong said the new party would focus on issues affecting 
the "well-being" of the Hong Kong people in practical terms. 
End Summary. 
 
2. (SBU) On March 15, the Hong Kong press reported that the 
Article 45 Concern Group, an organization originally formed 
in 2003 by a group of prominent Hong Kong lawyers and legal 
academics as the "Article 23 Concern Group," would formally 
establish the "Civic Party" on March 19.  The press also 
reported that Article 45 co-founder and Legislative Councilor 
Audrey Eu would be elected "party leader," while City 
University Professor Kuan Hsin-chi would be designated "party 
chairman."  Some of the media also reported that Fernando 
Cheung, an independent democrat who represents the social 
welfare functional constituency in the Legco and who recently 
joined the Article 45 Concern Group, would be named Civic 
Party Vice Chairman, while City University Professor Joseph 
Cheng -- formerly an advisor to the Democratic Party -- would 
become party secretary. 
 
Six Legco Members 
----------------- 
 
3. (C) On March 1, Professor Cheng told E/P Chief and poloff 
that Legco members Cheung and Mandy Tam, who represents the 
accounting functional constituency, already had joined the 
new party, bringing its total number of Legco members to six. 
 He said the Article 45 Concern Group was approaching other 
independent legislators to join the new party, but was unsure 
if any more would join; Joseph Lee of the health services 
functional constituency already had declined.  Cheng said the 
new Civic Party would have a structure similar to that of the 
British Labor Party, with an executive committee of 
approximately twenty people, of whom no more than one third 
would be legislators.  This, he said, would keep the party 
more grounded in grass roots issues and less focused on 
political campaigns.  He also said there would be no 
consideration of merger with the Democratic Party until after 
the 2008 Legco election, because it was more important for 
the party to address the overall aims of the democratic 
movement rather than 
become enmeshed in inter-party bickering among the democrats. 
 At the same time, Cheng believed that multiple parties 
competing for the same pool of democratic votes would not 
bring Hong Kong any closer to universal suffrage. 
 
Building a Popular Base 
----------------------- 
 
4. (C) On March 13, Article 45 Concern Group founding member 
and Legislative Councilor Margaret Ng told the Consul General 
that the most important task for the new party would be to 
build a popular base, which then could be mobilized to 
influence government planning and actions.  She said the 
Government's freedom to act and to dispense rewards without 
reference to the political parties currently rendered such a 
strategy difficult.  In Ng's view, the new party would 
provide a means to work with and develop civil society to 
take concerted political action, as in the case of the 
controversial West Kowloon Cultural District proposal, which 
the Government now has withdrawn.  She said the party's six 
Legco members were discussing how they would set positions 
and take action as a party; she believed the upcoming debate 
over the Government's budget would compel them to address 
numerous issues. 
 
Focus on Practical Issues 
------------------------- 
 
 
HONG KONG 00001072  002 OF 002 
 
 
5. (C) On March 6, Article 45 Concern Group Legco member Alan 
Leong told the Consul General that formation of the new party 
had been delayed somewhat by the requirement under Hong Kong 
law that political parties should be formed as "limited 
companies," which he said was "quite ridiculous."  The party, 
which he jokingly said had "too many lawyers," already had 
drafted its manifesto and articles of association.  Leong 
described Hong Kong society as a "three-legged stool" that 
currently has only two legs in place, the government and the 
business sector.  The third leg, which should be the public, 
was lacking, and the new Civic Party would attempt to fill 
that gap.  The key issues on which the new party would focus 
would be those affecting the "well-being" of the Hong Kong 
people in practical terms.  For example, if the Article 45 
Concern Group legislators discussed "rule of law" or 
"protection of freedom" in the abstract, they would not enjoy 
a very attentive response from the public.  If, however, they 
framed their discussion in more practical terms, such as 
preventing abuse of police powers to tap telephones, then the 
public would be more responsive.  Leong said the current 
problem of "governance" in Hong Kong was due to this 
"disconnect" between the SAR Government and the people. 
 
6. (C) Questioned on the new party's relationship with the 
Democratic Party (ref), Leong said that as a matter of 
"political reality," if the democrats wanted to engage the 
Government effectively on the issue of universal suffrage, 
then they would need to "stand together."  On other issues, 
such as tax, pollution, and regulation of electric power 
companies, however, there was no need for the various 
democrats to adopt common positions.  "Followers of the 
democratic cause" in Hong Kong were abundant, but many did 
not find the Democratic Party attractive.  During his own 
Legco election campaign in 2004, Leong said many of his 
constituents told him they would have abstained from voting 
if the only pro-democracy candidate had been from the 
Democratic Party.  In other words, he said, the pro-democracy 
pie was expanding, but part of that pie could not be taken by 
the Democratic Party. 
 
Cunningham 

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