Medical veteran Gabriel Choi: CY, you get out!

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Doctors are fiercely fighting the government in the Medical Council reform battle. The powerful and outspoken doctor who is leading the fight and can determine half of the Election Committee’s medical subsector seats, says it’s time for Leung Chun-ying to go.

The Election Committee’s medical subsector is hotly contested between pan-democrats and the pro-Beijing camp. But for Gabriel Choi (蔡堅), former Chairman of the Hong Kong Medical Association (HKMA), the dominance of that organisation within the medical subsector is of even greater importance. Choi hopes to use that dominance to prevent the reelection of  Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) .

Dr Choi is coming back

The 9,000-member HKMA took 15 out of 30 seats in the Election Committee’s 2006 and 2011 medical subsector election. The powerful body’s relative political neutrality can be greatly attributed to Choi’s efforts during his three terms at its head. As he has decided to run for a fourth term in July, his words are of no small significance for the Chief Executive (CE) Election next March. After all, Choi supported Leung in 2012.

“I won’t support Leung anymore as he cannot maintain the peace of Hong Kong. HKMA regrets voting for Leung in 2012 as social dissatisfaction and even sentiments of Hong Kong independence have arisen during his term. Young doctors are active in showing their political opposition to the government,” explains Dr Choi.

The HKMA adopted a winner-takes-all voting strategy in both 2007 and 2012 after conducting an internal poll. This means that if he is reelected as HKMA chairman, Choi will have the power to select candidates on the HKMA list. However, he reveals HKMA may withdraw the winner-takes-all strategy and let the list members choose their favourites.

“I won’t support CY Leung anymore as he cannot maintain the peace of Hong Kong,” says Gabriel Choi.

“This time the CE election is going to be very complicated, so I cannot tell if the strategy would be all-in or individual decisions until the last minute,” Dr Choi states. “I would respect the poll result if the majority of HKMA members picked Leung as their favourite, but I would say, if the medical reform bill is passed, the HKMA would consider it to be Leung’s poor policy, and he’s going to pay the price.”

“The unpopular Medical Council reform has ignited anti-Leung sentiment among doctors, and HKMA may take revenge when voting,” New Territories West LegCo member Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒) predicts. Kwok is a registered medical doctor who occupied the medical functional constituency from 2004 and 2012.

Louis Shih still wants a say

Dr Louis Shih (史泰祖), the co-founder and former member of Regina Ip’s (葉劉淑儀) New People’s Party, resigned from his position at the head of the HKMA on 1 May. He was forced to leave because doctors were unsatisfied with his proposal to hold a referendum to decide whether HKMA representatives in the Medical Council should be elected by HKMA council members.

“I won’t be actively involved in any activities of the Medical Council, the HKMA or LegCo, but I’m interested in being the Election Committee’s medical subsector representative,” says Shih. “I will run the medical subsector campaign on my own, but I don’t mind if HKMA invites me to join their list again.”

“I haven’t decided whether or not I will support Leung again, so let’s see how it goes,” he says.

Pan-democrats aim for four seats

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Pan-democrat supporters among the doctors are typically the minority, but this time they may have more seats. Kwok Ka-ki (郭家麒) reveals that pan-democrats are now looking for at least four.

“The Umbrella Movement in 2014 changed the political landscape of medical circles, Young doctors are more eager to voice their opinions on policies and politics,” Kwok says. “Twenty percent of Hong Kong doctors are doctors who are 30 or younger. Pan-democrats may win at least four seats if we receive their votes.”

Kwok and another pan-democrat supporter, Dr Au Yiu-kai (區耀佳), formed a five-member list in 2011, but only two of the members were eligible to pick the Chief Executive. As Kwok is likely to run for reelection in New Territories West and will become an ex-officio Election Committee member if he is elected, the pan-democrat campaign in the medical subsector will fall on Au’s shoulders.

“Pan-democrats may win at least four seats if we receive their (young doctors) votes,” Kwok Ka-ki predicts.

“Probably I won’t be the campaign leader but leave it to Dr Au. Even so, I’ll still help coordinate the campaign behind the stage,” Kwok says.

Remainder in pro-establishment hands

“The remaining seats are likely to fall into the pocket of pro-Beijing camp under the control of the Liasion Office, Beijing’s official representative office in Hong Kong. Arthur Li (李國章), the previous campaign leader of the pro-Beijing team, may take the lead again,” Kwok says.

Li, the founding dean of CUHK medical school and the chairman of the governing board of Hong Kong University, is a controversial figure who is  seen as a hardline government supporter.