Apart from that, over the past year, Lee has taken a high profile in expressing his views on social issues. He takes a conservative stance on welfare and gay rights and has raised previously little discussed issues such as government financial aid to asylum seekers in Hong Kong.
Lee believes his proactive approach is necessary after the party’s drubbing in the 2012 Legislative Council Election, in which it won just five seats, the lowest number in its history.
“Speaking of our image, we admit that we have been unclear. If we are going to fight for geographical constituencies again with such an unclear image, only seasoned and well-known politicians such as James Tien could win. There is no hope for newcomers.”
Chu Ho-ting, a political commentator and one of the founders of the Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators (HKYAC), says the pro-establishment camp is keen to recruit young members and is willing to embrace more outspoken young politicians like Lee in order to attract younger voters. He attributes this to the rise of more radical forces in Hong Kong, such as the pan-democrat League of Social Democrats, and the system of proportional representation used in the Legislative Council Election. “Under proportional representation, the League of Social Democrats only needs a few tens of thousands of votes to win one seat. And so they do have their market,” says Chu.
It is not just established parties like the Liberal Party who need new blood. Chu points out that a newly established political party also needs young politicians to gather new sources of voters.
30-year-old Kam Man-fung is the chairman of New People’s Party Youth Committee and an enthusiast in analysing government policies. Chu says newcomers in well-established parties are allowed a limited degree of independence whereas his party is open to young politicians and welcomes their ideas.
Kam says that as some pan-democratic groups and supporters become more radical, the pro-establishment camp needs to be more determined to contend with the voices of opposition. However, he concedes it is in a disadvantageous position when it comes to facing the media.
“Things related to the pro-establishment camp are sometimes really not as juicy,” he says. “It is all about sound bites when you face the media.”
Kam, along with Dominic Lee and Chu Ho-ting, is among the founders of the Hong Kong Association of Young Commentators (HKAYC). The group was set up in December 2012 with the aim of providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and rational debate in an increasingly divided, fractious city. Although it is meant to be politically diverse, apart from Chu, most of the core members are from pro-establishment political parties and bodies, including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU).