All votes, no candidates – The accounting subsector

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Pan-dem candidates hope to replicate their 2011 success in the Election Committee (EC) Accountancy subsector election, but may be stymied by the lack of candidates fearful of upsetting China.


 

It ain’t the voters. It’s the candidates.

If the pan-dems are to hold the balance of power in a contest of opposing pro-establishment candidates, they’ll need every vote they can get. Kenneth Leung (梁繼昌) figures he can get the accountant subsector voters – if he can find anyone brave enough to stand.

 

Count the accountants

Among the 1,200 voters selected for the Election Committee, thirty seats in the accounting subsector are up for grabs. Long dominated by  the pan-dems, the incumbent pan-dem Legislative Councilor, Kenneth Leung (FC – Accountancy) admits that the pan-dems face a serious challenge due to an inability to attract enough candidates to run for the campaign.

Mr Leung, Vice Chair of Professional Commons, shows that in 2011, the 10 candidate list put forward by pan-dem forces took the highest percentage of votes – but won only  9 out of 30 seats.

“My team has already spent all the effort to include maximum number of pan-dem candidates, but we still need more,” said Mr Leung. Independent and pro-Beijing candidates from 5 lists in total took the remaining 21 seats.

 

Pan-dem candidates: too few

The Accountancy subsector has 30 seats. All certified and registered public accountants are eligible voters. All eligible voters can be nominated for EC election candidates, and all candidates are free to form electoral coalition lists to run in the campaign.

In 2011, 65 candidates competed for the seats. Mr Leung organised the pan-dem 9-member list Democratic Accountants in 2011; all won their seats.

The pro-establishment camp split on CY Leung (梁振英) and Henry Tang (唐英年) lines.

Ex-LegCo member Eric Li (李家祥) organised a the 16-member ‘A16 Alliance’ and took 15 seats. A16 Alliance was formed by pro-Beijing Big Four firms accountant supporting Henry Tang.

Two pro-Beijing lists supporting CY Leung took 4 seats in total. The 6-member ‘Your Vote Counts’ was led by Paul Chan (陳茂波), the incumbent Secretary for Development and won 2 seats; ‘Y5 Give Me Five’ took 2 of 5.

Another list, Action 9, led by Albert Au (區嘯翔) took 2 of 9.

 

“Independence and integrity are still the two top priorities when the subsector voters choosing CE,” said Kenneth Leung

 

Scared to show their colours

“The reason for the lack of pan-dem candidates is the closer business connection to China than before, which discourages pan-dem supporters in the subsector from coming out to express their political stance,” Mr Leung explains.

Even so, independence and integrity still matter. “Professional accountants consider these two values as the backbone of the accountancy industry and the whole system of Hong Kong. Therefore I believe the CE candidates have to show these values to attract votes from Accountancy subsector.”

Mr Li and Mr Au were contacted for this article and declined to comment, keeping their cards close to their chest.

Accountants have interests too, including cutting working hours and policies they believe will maintain the status of Hong Kong as international financial centre. However, when it comes to voting for EC candidates and thereby the CE election, the subsector’s voters consider the political stance of EC and CE candidates. “The voters understand choosing a CE is not only for protecting sectoral interests, but for all HK people,” Mr Leung told HT.

Hong Kong now has 40,000 professional accountants, of which 25,000 are registered voters for both LegCo FC and CE EC election. Being a professional accountant means he or she has to pass through the strict qualification assessment of designated accountancy associations under the ordinance. This rigour means the chance of vote rigging is much smaller than, say, the Information Technology subsector, where is the definition of IT workers is less well defined.

Kenneth Leung and the pan-dems are on the prowl for another 20 candidates, among 25,000 eligible candidates, who are brave enough to stand for the pan-dem camp. Hong Kong will find out what counts for accountants in 2016.