Veteran leaders of the pro-business Liberal Party have urged its representative in the Hong Kong government’s top advisory body to resign, following recent protests against the government.

Honorary chairs James Tien, Selina Chow, Vincent Fang, and Miriam Lau will send a letter to lawmaker Tommy Cheung to ask him to resign from the Executive Council (ExCo) for failing to reflect accurate public opinion to the government, Tien said on an RTHK radio programme on Monday. The four are members of the party’s eight-person leadership.

Tien said Cheung made a mistake when he issued a statement supporting the government’s extradition bill in the name of the Liberal Party soon after the anti-extradition bill march on June 9, which organisers said a million people joined.

James Tien
James Tien.

Tien said the statement was issued in haste with the support of two lawmakers Frankie Yick and Shiu Ka-fai, even though the party’s leader Felix Chung opposed to it. He said the four honorary chairs, including him, did not hear about the statement before it was issued.

“We the Liberal Party should act as a party within the pro-establishment camp monitoring the government. We cannot just throw our support at the government right after a million people marched. I think Tommy Cheung should consider resigning from the ExCo,” Tien said.

It is unusual for ExCo members to resign as a form of protest against the government’s decision.

In 2003, Tien himself resigned from the ExCo following mass protests against the legislation of the national security law. The government was then forced to retract the legislation. Tien was the Liberal Party chair at the time.

policy address
Shiu Ka-fai, Felix Chung, Tommy Cheung and Frankie Yick of the Liberal Party during a press conference at LegCo. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Felix Chung told RTHK that he supported the four honorary chairs’ call for Cheung to resign.

He said if Cheung resigns, it could be a message to the government that it must take actions to improve its governance.

Chung added that foreign governments would have reshuffled its cabinet if such mass protests occurred, and the Hong Kong government failed to convince its people to stop protesting.

Several weeks of protests were sparked by legal amendments proposed in February, which would allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions where there are no prior agreements – most notably, mainland China.  Critics have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland, which lacks human rights protections.

The bill was suspended on June 15 until further notice, but not withdrawn. The protests have since morphed into a wider public display of discontent over dwindling freedoms, democracy and alleged police brutality.

extradition mass protest

Meanwhile, Tien also said Executive Council members Regina Ip and Ronny Tong should resign from their positions because they were among those who strongly pushed the extradition bill.

Tong said in a Facebook post – apparently responding to Tien – that there was an “unhealthy and irresponsible trend” for people to make up facts to ask public figures to apologise or resign.

“If he apologises and resigns, it would be seen as admitting to the false accusations; if he does not, they would say these public figures never admit fault. When has our diverse and civilised society become this?” Tong wrote.

Ronny Tong
Ronny Tong. File Photo:

Ip said she will not resign from the ExCo. She said Tien’s comments were unreasonable and irresponsible.

“The substance of the bill has no problem. It’s just that the bill has been highly unfortunately demonised by those opposed to it,” she said. “As the government explained, it has fallen short in explaining the provisions of the bills.”

“As an adviser, I have done my level best in explaining the provisions to the public. I have written essays, speeches in LegCo, blogs. I actually helped the government to handle the bulk of the international media. So I really see no reason why I should take responsibility to resign.”

Tien also said Secretary for Security John Lee and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, two officials responsible for the bill, should also consider stepping down. He said Police Commissioner Stephen Lo, who will retire soon, can replace Lee.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.