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Sunday, Sep 20, 2020

Pro-Beijing party scrambling to find 200 jobs and restore morale of staff crushed in Hong Kong elections

Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong turns to mainland-friendly companies for help. Pro-establishment camp facing loss of 100 offices at local level after humuliation in district council polls

Hong Kong’s largest pro-establishment party is scrambling to find around 200 jobs for its out-of-work politicians and their staff after its humiliating defeat in the district council elections last month.

Crushed at local level, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) also faces the prospect of losing 100 district offices, and is battling to save party morale ahead of next year’s Legislative Council elections.

Party insiders told the Post they were hoping to find positions for people with businesses linked to mainland China, or that were Beijing-friendly, so those defeated candidates could maintain a grass-roots presence as they worked towards a comeback in four years’ time.

“Those mainland-funded companies allow flexible working hours, so the candidates can continue working in districts on top of the office jobs,” said a party member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But it is not easy for listed companies which have to be transparent for their shareholders.”

Some 96 DAB candidates lost their seats in November’s polls, as the city’s pro-establishment camp relinquished control of 17 of the 18 district councils. Defeated candidates with offices in public estates must return them to the government, while those with private ones can keep them, if they can afford the rent.

District councillors are paid a monthly salary of HK$33,950 (US$4,338), plus another HK$44,816 for operating expenses, and usually hire one or two assistants.

DAB is believed to have arranged jobs internally for defeated councillors in the past, but the large number of losers this year means the party has had to look outside for help.

The source refused to disclose a list of companies involved, or party members that had been hired, citing the sensitivity of the issue amid a tense atmosphere in the city, where businesses with links to mainland China have been targeted, and vandalised in violent protests.

Party chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king confirmed the group had been referring members in need to “friendly organisations, companies and associations”, and encouraging them to continue serving in districts at the same time.

DAB’s rising star Chris Ip Ngo-tung, the outgoing chairman of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council who was defeated by political novice and lift worker Chan Tsz-wai, revealed that he would have a new role at the pro-Beijing Ta Kung Wen Wei Media, on top of continuing his work in Jordan.

“I have been an assistant manager of the company working on administration,” Ip said. “Discussion has been under way for me to take up a new role in the future.”

Ip said the party would continue to rent his office, which he shared with another defeated district councillor, Craig Jo Chun-wah.

Hung Kam-yin, the soon-to-be replaced vice-chairman of Kwun Tong District Council, said he had to return his office in Po Tat public estate, but had a backup office in the area.

“I have run a resident association and I will use its address as my office,” he said. “I am finding enthusiastic volunteers to help me pay the monthly HK$5,000 rent though.”

There are more than 200 DAB offices across the city, combining offices of legislative and district council members, and that figure is expected to be halved in the wake of the elections, according to an insider, though the final number is subject to fundraising results.

The source said offices in “important locations” would be retained under priority, including one in Sai Ying Pun, where Beijing’s liaison office is located.

Some office activities will be transferred to the ones run by DAB lawmakers who lost in the district elections, with the likes of Vincent Cheng Wing-shun, Holden Chow Ho-ding and Ben Chan Han-pan, expecting to do this. Some staff who worked on district matters are also likely to be moved to the Legislative Council offices.

Chow said district offices were “like strategic points for an election ‘war’”, and it was important to retain them, but another DAB member said everything would be in vain if the political atmosphere in the city did not change.


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