Brotherly love appears to be a little thin on the ground in the wake of the farcical electoral reform vote, with sibling legislators Michael and James Tien embroiled in a public sparring match.

New People’s Party legislator Michael Tien accused his older brother, the Liberal party’s James Tien, of “saving himself” by letting the rest of his colleagues shoulder the blame for a botched walk out during a key vote on electoral reforms.

Michael Tien (left) and James Tien (right) Photo: Wikimedia (left), 田北俊(James Tien) Facebook (right).

In a column for Ming Pao, the younger Tien used the analogy of a sinking ship to depict the performance of the pro-establishment legislators during last Thursday’s vote. He accused those who remained in the chamber of “neglecting those who are dying”.

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“Everyone was on the same boat, and under the leadership of the captain, [we] crashed into an iceberg and incurred a large hole that is leaking water in. The captain was disorganised in dealing with the crisis and with missteps left and right. A large number of shipmates were united and tried to repair, and if there were enough people they would have been successful in saving the ship. However, eight shipmates decided to ignore everything, boarded the lifeboat, thus the number of people repairing the hole was not sufficient, and 33 members who are on the boat ended up buried in the sea.”
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大家同坐一條船,船長領導下,撞上冰山破了一大洞而入水,船長處理危機雜亂無章、左支右絀,絕大部分船員在團結努力修補,只要人手充足就可順利救船,但其中8 名船員不顧一切,登上救生艇,修補破洞的人手不夠,33 人搭沉船全部葬身大海。

Tien later went on to criticise other members of the pro-establishment parties for over-estimating the “togetherness” of all members. He said the united stance of the camp was “only limited to fundamental issues, such as the political reforms, following repeated discussions,” and “must be according to the orders of the highest echelons of the central government.”

“When the ‘loosely united’ pro-establishment side faces emergencies, it ‘separates the wheat from the chaff’, and exposes where loyalties lie”, observed Michael Tien.

The elder Tien dismissed the allegations as “preposterous”, saying that if no one had walked out of the chamber then everything would have been fine. He later added his younger brother had only been an elected representative for two years and was less familiar with LegCo’s rules of procedure.

On June 18, lawmakers discussed and voted on the government’s proposals for electing the chief executive in 2017. The pro-establishment members of the chamber did not have the required two-thirds majority for the vote to pass and staged a walkout in a last ditch attempt to make the vote inquorate. However, a communication error meant that eight people from the pro-establishment camp – including James Tien – did not get the message to walk out of the chamber.

The package, which would have allowed Hongkongers to directly elect their chief executive but only under certain conditions set out by the central government in Beijing, was voted down by 28 legislators, with eight legislators voting in support. The eight votes caused the resolution to receive the necessary 35 votes to legitimise the final tally.

James Tien defended his actions and later went on to tell the press that the Liberal Party leader Vincent Fang had received a phone call from the Chinese Liaison Office commending those who stayed in the chamber to vote.

In 2014, James Tien resigned as leader of the Liberal party and was ejected from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference after he called for Chief Executive CY Leung’s resignation at the height of the Occupy protests.

Michael Tien was first elected to the Legislative Council in 2012 and was formerly a Liberal Party member.

Arthur Lo

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.