A group of top finance executives in Hong Kong have announced the founding of a pro-establishment political party, comprised mainly of mainland-born business and financial professionals who have settled in the city.

News of the new Bauhinia Party stirred excitement and speculation over whether the group is sanctioned by Beijing to compete with – or undercut – existing pro-government groups in the city, now that pro-democracy politicians have left the city’s Legislative Council with a void.

Hong Kong China flag children
Photo: GovHK.

Democrats quit in protest last month after Beijing empowered the government to oust four more democratically-elected lawmakers.

The new party is co-founded by Sichuan-born banker Li Shan, Clement Chen Jianwen, and Wang Chau-Chi, according to local media reports citing the group’s company registration documents. Chen and Li are president and consultant respectively at an alumni association in Hong Kong for the Chinese Communist Party School called the Chinese Academy of Governance Industrial and Commercial Professionals Alumni Association (CAGA), Stand News reported on Wednesday.

The association has close ties with Beijing’s office in Hong Kong. Last year, it hosted a forum attended by senior officials of the Liaison Office at the Bauhinia Villia in Shenzhen. The villa is known to be a meeting place for top Chinese officials and Hong Kong officials and politicians. Chen attended public events and has given speeches as head of the CAGA in the past, and hosted events at a Hong Kong police station to showcase the CAGA’s support for the force, according to Stand News.

Citing sources, the digital news outlet reported that many “Haigui” top executives among the city’s Chinese financial institutions and state corporations received invitations to join the party. “Haigui” is a term for people from the mainland who returned after studying abroad.

Financial sector pro-establishment lawmaker Christopher Cheung, however, told HKFP that he only learnt about the party from the media. “They haven’t contacted us,” he said, although he is “quite familiar with one of the founders” in the financial industry.

Legislative Council Hong Kong
Legislative Council building in Hong Kong. Photo: Wikicommons.

Another pro-establishment lawmaker of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions Aron Kwok also told HKFP he was not aware of the group prior to media reports.

‘100 years of One Country, Two Systems’

In a speech given at an academic forum at Tsing Hua university in late November, Li – a Credit Suisse board member who has lived in Hong Kong for two decades – said that he and other fellow graduates had “learned from the Communist Party” and founded the Bauhinia Party on March 1. They registered the organisation as a limited company after informing Chief Executive Carrie Lam of its founding in a letter. A transcript of the forum was published on Weibo and reported by SCMP.

While the new party has been perceived as one for elite mainland immigrants who settled in Hong Kong after returning from overseas, another party co-founder and Guangzhou-born chairman of CMMB Vision holdings, Wong Chau-Chi, told Sing Tao Daily that the party did not wish to be labelled as it hoped to represent interests of Hongkongers.

The party was founded by over a dozen individuals, Wong said, who largely grew up in city and studied overseas. He said that the party was not a party for “mainland immigrants who returned overseas.”

Bauhinia party co-founders Li Shan, Wong Chau-chi, and Clement Chan. (Left to right). Photos: Internet.
Bauhinia party co-founders Li Shan, Wong Chau-chi, and Clement Chan. (Left to right). Photos: Internet.

The party’s constitution said it will seek for “another fifty years – unchanged – and have a hundred years of One Country, Two Systems,” Sing Tao reported.

The party seeks to “unite citizens of Hong Kong, regardless of their political spectrum, to build a beautiful home together,” Li said in his speech given in November, “but with the premise that the party will support ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ love the country and Hong Kong, safeguard the rule of law and oppose discrimination against communities.”

“Hong Kong’s main trouble lies with the Legislative Council,” Li said, as he described it is a body made up of multiple political parties comparable to an opposition party with veto power. Instead, he proposed that Hong Kong could follow China’s model of “consultative democracy” and the western model of a bicameral legislature with an “upper” house.

Li frequently pens articles and gives interviews to the mainland press. His online biographies show he is CEO of Silk Road Financial Corporation, a member of Tsinghua Institute for Governance Studies, as well as a representative of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a political body in the mainland. The banker received a PhD in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MA in economics from University of California, Davis.

Additional reporting: Candice Chau.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.