Hong Kong’s biggest political party elects new leader Gary Chan, who vows reform to focus on city’s ‘good governance’ instead of chasing votes

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Hong Kong’s biggest political party elected lawmaker Gary Chan Hak-kan as its leader on Monday, as he vowed to reform the group by shifting its focus towards helping authorities govern the city and away from chasing votes.

But the new chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) also made it clear the party would propose “as many candidates as possible” to run in the coming district council election on December 10.

“The DAB is committed to enhancing the delivery of good governance. We are a cross-social class political organisation working for Hong Kong society overall and long-term interests,” Chan, 47, told reporters after the party voted for its new leadership.

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The party elected lawmakers Elizabeth Quat and Ben Chan Han-pan to new roles as vice-chairwoman and vice-chairman, with incumbent deputies Brave Chan Yung, Holden Chow Ho-ding and Chan Hok-fung serving for another term.

Gary Chan succeeds DAB’s first woman leader Starry Lee Wai-king, now the city’s sole representative to the apex body of the national legislature. Lee announced in August that she would not seek to renew her eight-year stint as party leader because of “limited time and limited work capability”.

Asked whether the party’s new focus on targeting governance would undermine its role in monitoring the government, the new chairman argued the move was in line with the city’s journey “from stability to prosperity”, employing a phrase used by officials to describe Hong Kong’s recovery following the 2019 protests.

Gary Chan succeeds DAB’s first woman leader Starry Lee Wai-king, now the city’s sole representative to the apex body of the national legislature. Photo: Sam Tsang

“The party has always adhered to the principle of ‘stick to the right and part with the wrong’. We will back the government for its good deeds, but we will also criticise it for what it doesn’t do well,” he said.

The party would adopt the principle of “make it happen” under its reform, he said, referring to government initiatives that “benefited the well-being of people and the city’s economic development”.

The new chairman said the party would propose “as many candidates as possible” for the district council election in December, but stopped short of revealing the exact numbers and names.

The coming poll is the first held under the city’s “patriots-only” revamped electoral system. Contenders must bag at least nine nominations from members of three municipal-level committees, which are packed with pro-Beijing figures, in each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts and clear national security checks.

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The opposition Democratic Party, which earlier indicated it would run in the polls, had lamented its difficulties in contacting the committee members, as their communication details were not made public.

Asked about their difficulties on this front, Chan suggested candidates should not have problems contacting the members if they had served enough time in district-level administration.

Chan started his political career with the DAB in 1999 when he was elected as the then youngest-ever district councillor at the age of 23. He was appointed as a special assistant to then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in 2006, before being elected two years later as a lawmaker, a position he has held ever since.

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Last year, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu appointed him as an adviser on the key decision-making body Executive Council.

With more than 51,000 members, the DAB is arguably the biggest political party in Hong Kong. It has 19 seats in the Legislative Council and 21 district councillors.

The party has seven members in the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature. Nine DAB members are also delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory body.

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