HONG KONG, Reuters
Hong Kong’s top pro-democracy voice, lawyer Martin Lee, pledged on Monday to unify his deeply divided Democratic Party after being re-elected party chairman for the fourth time.
“I don’t think it’s impossible to bring them (members) together … after all, these are people who have an absolute desire to bring about democracy to Hong Kong,” Lee said on government radio.
While recognizing a split between members, Lee said the reality was not as bad as the public perception.
Lee was returned as chairman at a meeting on Sunday night, in what will be his last two-year term permitted under the party constitution.
Of the 292 members present, 230 voted for Lee, while seven voted against him. Fifty-five members abstained.
Younger, more radical members of the party have been increasingly critical of the mainstream over what they see as inadequate attention on livelihood issues and the pace of democracy.
Many of these members were noticeably absent from Sunday’s meeting and those present did not express views on party reforms, the English-language iMail reported. During the meeting, Lee, who has served as chairman since the party was founded in 1994, called for unity and acknowledged that conflicts had yet to be resolved, the iMail said.
A recent survey carried out by the party said internal conflict may be the major reason behind a sharp decline in its popularity, the Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News reported.
The survey which was released on Sunday also found that a third of the voters who backed the party in the 1998 election did not do so again in a September poll.
The party received 170,000 fewer votes in September, or a drop of eight percentage points, than in 1998.