Former Civic Party lawmaker Ronny Tong says he considers himself to be a democracy advocate, following criticism that he does not represent pro-democracy voices on the government’s top advisory body.

“A politician does not need anyone’s approval to be pro-democracy or fight for democracy. I believe many people know very well what values I represent based on [my work] over the last ten-odd years,” Tong said Sunday in an interview with local broadcaster TVB.

ronny tong
Ronny Tong. Photo: TVB screenshot.

The remarks came after incoming leader Carrie Lam appointed Tong last week to the Executive Council, which advises the chief executive on policy matters.

In response to Tong’s appointment, Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said: “I don’t know the reasons behind Lam’s decision, but if she wants to communicate with the pro-democracy camp, Tong does not represent pro-democracy voices.”

Tong said he did not mind criticism like Yeung’s, and that he hopes to help the government table a new electoral reform proposal by serving on the Executive Council.

“If our political goal is to work towards Hong Kong’s political development and achieve universal suffrage, anyone who supports democracy should have a strategy in mind. Is shouting slogans at the legislature every day enough, or should we do actual work?” Tong said.

alvin yeung
Alvin Yeung. File Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Tong also praised Lam for being “the first chief executive” to promise to bring diverse voices into the government. He then criticised the pro-democracy camp for not being open-minded towards working with them.

“I am a bit disappointed at their attitude and the current situation,” he said.

The ex-lawmaker added that he had never thought about joining the government before Lam approached him. “Now that I have this opportunity to shape policy decisions, I think I should stay true to my political ideology and give it a try,” he said.

Tong left the Civic Party and the legislature in 2015. He later founded the think tank Path of Democracy and positioned himself as offering a “third way” in Hong Kong politics.

Tong previously told HKFP that if Hong Kong’s pro-democracy politicians were less headstrong, he believed some kind of consensus with Beijing would be possible.

He proposed establishing an informal channel or conference through which all political parties could meet regularly with Chinese government officials to review the implementation of the One Country, Two Systems policy.

YouTube video

Interview: Ex-lawmaker Ronny Tong blazes new ‘third path’ to mend divisions in Hong Kong

The newly announced list of Executive Council members is dominated by pro-Beijing figures, such as lawmakers Regina Ip, Wong Kwok-kin and Horace Cheung, New Territories strongman Kenneth Lau, and incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying’s close aide Arthur Li.

All 16 principal officials also automatically join the advisory body. Members meet every Tuesday to advise the chief executive on policy making, though the meetings are held behind closed doors and records are not disclosed.

The Executive Council convenes on July 1.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.