Opinion: ITB a ruse to steal Charles Mok’s seat in 2016

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The establishment of the ITB may never have been the government’s’ goal, but rather a disingenuous campaign to take Charles Mok’s IT seat in the next election.

The failure of the ITB to pass through the Finance Committee seemed to be by design. The Chief Executive’s team put it at the bottom of the list of items to be considered by the Finance Committee. The only  person who has been committed to it since the idea’s inception is somehow being made out to be the fall guy by the pro-establishment camp – also by design. The pro-establishment forces need Mok’s seat and aim to have it by hook or by crook.

Designed to fail

For the third time in the past two years, the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB) failed to pass the Finance Committee (FC). Chief Executive CY Leung predictably lamented the temporary death of his controversial ‘brainchild’, blaming the pan-dems for filibustering. Information Technology legislator Charles Mok was specifically pinpointed, by the CE, as the culprit for “misrepresenting” the IT sector. Pro-establishment lawmakers and media alike toed the government line, as a symphony of blame fell on Charles Mok faster than the chandelier from the Phantom of the Opera.

In the aftermath of the political reform vote fiasco, CY Leung announced on June 19 the Government would reshuffle the order of the Finance Committee agenda. The new agenda would allow livelihood funding requests to be discussed first, and leave the controversial ITB application to the last. Had the ITB funding measure been first, the pan-dems would have curtailed their filibustering to get to the so-called livelihood measures (welfare) that the pro-dem parties are fond of.

The Finance Committee was extended by 28 meeting hours, at the behest of CY Leung, with only six items standing in the way of an ITB verdict. Alan Leong warned that forcing the extension could deep six the establishment of the ITB. And that might have been just what the CE ordered.

ITB – A means to an end, not an end

When it was finally the ITB’s turn in the final four hours of the FC last Saturday, the lawmakers who vowed to filibuster had their work done for them. Out of the 33 lawmakers who spoke, 26 belonged to the pro-establishment, including Wong Kwok-hing, Priscilla Leung, Ip Kwok-him, Regina Ip, and many many more. Most threw brickbats at Charles Mok, accusing him of claiming to represent IT voters, when in fact he was allied with the filibustering pan-dems against his constituents’ interests.

Priscilla Leung, who teaches law at City University, said, “A lot of my colleagues, not in my faculty, said any of them could do a better job in your position. Think about that!” Wong Kwok-hing called Mok shameless, and questioned how he could face his constituency, while Elizabeth Quat criticise Mok for paying the industry lip service, saying, “You say you love someone, and end up abusing them.” Christopher Chung deserves the award for most innovative insult, calling Mok a computer virus that must be removed. Pro-Beijing media outlets also took lengths to criticise Charles Mok and highlighted his roasting in the Finance Committee.

What they didn’t provide was any supporting evidence for their over the top invective.

Planned from the start

The rhetoric echoed the executive branch’s comments on the matter, and appeared very much a concerted effort between the pro-establishment lawmakers, the pro-Beijing media, the government, and chief influencers.

At the Chief Executive Q&A session just a week before, the Chief Executive claimed ‘some’ in the IT sector had expressed their displeasure with Mok, saying he failed to safeguard the industry’s interests. A day after, pro-establishment lawmakers announced a petition signed by 275 IT workers”, including Quat, BPA’s Lo Wai Kwok, Mok’s predecessor Samson Tam, and Eric Yeung, whom, rumour has it, is backed by Beijing to challenge Charles Mok for the IT seat next year.

Top media official and self-proclaimed ‘White House spokesperson’, Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, wrote in his newspaper column that Mok lacks political wisdom, political courage, and political responsibility. Cheung Chi-kong, ExCo member and Executive Director for the One Country Two Systems Research institute, also took to his column to question where Mok’s loyalty lay, with the IT sector or the pan-democrat camp?

5 votes, one at a time

Bear in mind: Beijing only needs to gain five seats to pass their electoral reform package in the next round of constitutional reform.

Forcing the Finance Committee into a showdown over the ITB was the perfect opportunity to exploit Mok’s awkward position between the IT sector and the pan-democrats. By using their influence in LegCo and the press to further portray Mok as a traitor of the industry may strengthen the pro-establishment’s challengers for the IT seat.

However, Mok’s disagreement with his pan-dem allies on the issue of the ITB is a long-standing matter of record and he has been a consistent, and often lonely, champion of the ITB project.

There have already been media reports disclosing shady maneuvers to “buy votes” in the IT sector. The pro-establishment could very well be competing for other functional constituency seats, and the government will likely exploit any opportunities to weaken the opposition ahead of next year’s LegCo elections.

It remains to be seen if this blatant and unfounded attack will sway IT voters in 2016, but look for similar attacks on other seats as the LegCo election machines kick into high gear.