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Bauhinia Party Chairman Li Shan: “If Hong Kong is doing well, then Beijing has no reason to intervene”

FCC President Keith Richburg and Bauhinia Party chairman Li Shan.

In his first public remarks since the formation of the Bauhinia Party in March 2020, party chairman Li Shan said he wants the new political party to bridge Hong Kong’s blue-yellow divide to solve the city’s pressing social problems, though he seeks no role as an elected official.

“Our colour is patriotism,” said Li, highlighting the party’s focus on unity.

Speaking from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong in a conversation with club president Keith Richburg, Li also said he is not a member of the Communist Party and he was not prodded by Beijing to start a new pro-China party. He went on to defend the central government’s increasingly interventionist role in Hong Kong’s affairs, comparing the city to a poorly performing business subsidiary.

“If Hong Kong is doing well, then Beijing has no reason to intervene,” said Li.

In an opening statement outlining the Bauhinia Party’s purpose and vision for the future of Hong Kong, Li painted a picture of a city that has lost its former greatness and entered dark times due to income inequality, a shortage of affordable housing and a lack of opportunity for many people. He said that these fundamental problems have led to widespread despair and anger, even as he called for unity to confront the city’s systemic problems.

“If we work together, Hong Kong can, and will, become a shining paragon of modern society once again,” said Li.

Born in a poor village in Sichuan before going on to become a successful banker, Li said he was naive and uneducated about Hong Kong politics until recently, and that his involvement in forming a new political party stemmed from his love of the city and, more pertinently, concern about its future.

A member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Li will soon be attending the annual session in Beijing, where he said he will be putting forth new proposals to address Hong Kong’s affordable housing crisis.

Li and his fellow party members have also proposed changes to the Legislative Council, including turning it into a bicameral body with a lower house of directly elected members and an upper house composed of members appointed by the Chief Executive. Asked to describe LegCo’s relationship to the Chief Executive, he said, “Of course there is a check and a balance.”

Though Li said he currently has no plans to run for LegCo or Chief Executive, he said the Bauhinia Party will focus its efforts on the selection of the city’s top-ranking official. “I think she most certainly can do a better job,” Li said in regards to Carrie Lam’s performance. Earlier, in his opening statement, he had asked, “Where are the strong leaders we need to tackle Hong Kong’s challenges? Who can restore hope?”

Patriotism has been a hotly discussed topic in Hong Kong recently, and Li agreed with the central government’s assertion that the city should be governed by patriots. In spite of the increasingly direct role Beijing has taken in Hong Kong affairs, Li said he had no knowledge of attempts to engineer changes to the city’s political system.

“I do believe Beijing will welcome all sorts of talents who love this city and love China,” said Li. “I don’t think they have narrowly defined criteria.”

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