Junior politicians introduce bold ideas to pro-establishment camp
By Yoyo Chan & Hilda Lee
As ever more creative street protests and social campaigns bolster post-handover Hong Kong’s image as the “City of Protest”, the impression many people have is that activists are getting younger and more radical. They are also seen as overwhelmingly pro-democracy.
Dominic Lee Tsz-king is a boyish 29-year-old who became interested in politics while taking a summer course at Britain’s Oxford University as a sixth former and cut his political teeth interning first for US Democratic candidate John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign and Democratic Congressman Al Green the following year. Given this history, one would expect Lee to join the pan-democratic camp on his return to Hong Kong after completing his Economics degree.
Not so. Lee joined the Liberal Party and is now chairman of the party’s youth committee. He explains his flirtation with the American Democrats was motivated by youthful disdain for former US President George W. Bush. “To a youngster, George Bush represents something really bad, you don’t want to be associated with anything that is represented by him,” says Lee.
When Lee came back to Hong Kong, he interned at the office of former Liberal Party leader and legislator James Tien Pei-chun and realised his politics were far more aligned with the party of business.
“The Liberal Party is a right-wing political party based upon neoliberalism. Yet, many people hold misconceptions about us. They are confused about whether we are pro-business, pro-establishment or the centre,” says Lee.
Hong Kong has long been a city where free-market and entrepreneurial values are deeply entrenched and they are precisely the values held by the Liberal Party. But small government advocates like Lee feel the city has been drifting in a more welfare-orientated, interventionist direction.
He felt something had to be done to get the Liberal Party’s right-wing image across.
Earlier this year, Lee came up with an unusual move. He noted that Longhair Leung Kwok-hung’s Che Guevara T-shirts had become synonymous with the radical democrat legislator. Lee proposed the Liberal Party should also use a famous figure to illustrate their political ideology.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was one of the obvious candidates as an icon of neoliberalism. But there were fears her image might lead to accusations of pro-British sentiment and colonial nostalgia. So, the party plumped for former American President Ronald Reagan instead. A baby blue T-shirt bearing Reagan’s likeness and his quote “The best social program is a job!” has become the new symbol of a party previously associated with business suits.