Dominic Lee is no newbie when it comes to raising eyebrows. The Liberal Party’s controversial firebrand says it’s a good thing to stand up for his beliefs.
Sometimes, politicians must be controversial to be successful. In contrast, politicians whose words almost always cause debate are rare indeed. America may have Trump, but Hong Kong has Dominic Lee Tsz-king (李梓敬), a Liberal Party “troublemaker” who is eager to bring his talent, and his tongue to the Legco.
Lee, 32, will likely replace veteran James Tien Pei-chun (田北俊) as the headliner of the Liberal Party’s New Territories East election lineup. Back in 2004, Lee assisted Tien in the former’s bid for a Legco seat in the same constituency. Lee officially became a Liberal in 2009. Now as head of the party’s young squadron and a district councillor in Sham Shui Po, he is looking to take his party to new heights.
The year 2004 also marked Lee’s increasing involvement in politics albeit outside of Hong Kong. While a student in the US, he began working as an assistant in his campus polling station for presidential candidate John Kerry. One year later, he signed on as an intern at the office of Texas Democrat congressman Al Green.
A frank talker for voters
Lee claims these experiences had little effect on his political stance, but it’s hard not to notice that many of his defining characteristics, including the guts to engage in political debates, are similar to those found in US politicians.
“When voters pick their candidate, they want someone who can speak for them. Being outspoken, therefore, should be a primary attribute for any politician,” Lee says. “Mr Tien lost his [Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference] seat for it; we placed ourselves into troubles for arguing for certain controversial issues. But that’s why our voters choose us – to stand by our beliefs which are also their beliefs.”
This raises the question of what Lee’s own firm beliefs are. He outlines a number of issues that are of utmost concern to him, the most controversial of which is the “fake refugee” problem. In fact, he has launched a Facebook group to promote his plans for repatriating those who use claims of persecution to disguise voluntary motives for migration. This has earned him a comparison to the infamous current US Republican presidential candidate. But Lee insists there is a point to make.
“As a right-wing political party, we place the wellbeing of local people above all. Hence we are against extending the welfare system to new immigrants, be they from the mainland or not. And fake refugees are another problem,” Lee explains. “If you ask Hong Kong people what to do about illegal refugees, I believe 9.5 out of 10 will agree that they should be repatriated.”
Lee is also known for his strong words in opposition to universal retirement protection. An old lady even swore at him once over the topic during a Legco public hearing. The incident immediately went viral on the Internet. This did not bother him, for he thinks what matters most is a fair exchange of arguments.
“More and more people have become bored of politicians who try to play safe when presenting themselves to the public. They don’t want saints. They want people they can relate to,” Lee says.
Big shoes to fill
Filling the boots of James Tien is not an easy job. According to Lee, the combination of a young candidate and a popular and experienced veteran may attract enough votes to get the duo into Legco together. The party is aiming for seven to eight seats in total, with a goal to become a bridge between the government, the pro-establishment camp and moderate voices within the pan-democratic camp. For one thing, Lee and his colleagues are steadfast in opposing the reelection of chief executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英).
For Tien, Lee makes a natural option for the party with his middle-class and pro-business background. He does, however, suggest that Lee should be a little bit more easygoing.
“I was no less aggressive in my 30s, and there is nothing wrong with what Dominic stands for, including his views on “fake refugees”. That being said, I do think he can be less confrontational. Not everyone can be Donald Trump who can manage such a style well, after all,” quips Tien.