Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Veteran unionist to lead Hong Kong's pro-Beijing party


A veteran unionist was chosen on Tuesday to head Hong Kong's leading pro-Beijing party, inheriting the task with polishing the party's image tarnished by his predecessor's comments that the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown was not a massacre.

"Our standing committee filled the chairman vacancy. Tam Yiu-chung (譚耀宗) was the only nominee and named our new leader," said Ip Kwok-him (葉國謙), vice chairman of the DAB party, at a press conference.

Tang replaces Ma Lik (馬力), who died of colon cancer in Guangzhou earlier this month.

"It's a big challenge to be DAB's chairman," Tam said. "I'm determined to take up the post and fulfill Mr Ma Lik's wish to continue to develop and expand the party."

The 57-year-old Tam has a strong unionist background, serving as vice chairman for the Federation of Trade Unions for more than 20 years.

Tam is also a lawmaker and Hong Kong representative to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Chinese legislature's top noncommunist advisory body.

Ma Ngok, a ploitical scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Tam is a temperate personality and expected to be a pragmatic leader.

"Tam Yiu-chung is likely to pursue the path the party has been following," the analyst said.

Tam faces the challenge of rebuilding DAB's image after Ma Lik sparked outrage shortly before his death by questioning whether China's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 should be characterized as a massacre.

The bloodshed, which occurred when Hong Kong was still a British colony preparing for a return to Chinese rule in 1997, remains a sensitive matter here.

Analyst Ma said Tam needs to stabilize the party and lead it through upcoming local district and legislature elections.

DAB suffered a stunning setback in local district polls in 2003 after backing a government-proposed national security law that many viewed as draconian. Half a million Hong Kongers marched to protest against the proposal, which was later shelved.

Since then, the DAB party has stepped up efforts to appeal to young professionals and Hong Kong's middle class. It is the territory's largest political party with more than 10,000 members.

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