Magazine article Business Asia

A Law Unto Herself

Magazine article Business Asia

A Law Unto Herself

Article excerpt

One of Hong Kong's most outspoken reformers is quitting politics, but she won't be silenced.

SHE HAS been named one of Asia's most powerful opinion shapers -- and, in a rarity for politicians, her popularity rating has soared over the years.

So it came as something of a surprise when prominent Hong Kong lawmaker Christine Loh said last month she would not stand for re-election.

Loh, 44, is to form an advocacy group, saying this will give her more influence than she ever had as an elected official.

An outspoken champion of democracy and environmental issues, Loh said she would not stand in September when the second legislative election takes place under Chinese rule.

The successful businesswoman-turned-politician is forming a new think-tank and advocacy group to press for causes that she fought for largely in vain in the 60-member Legislative Council.

"This is a think-tank with an advocacy role that will do public education plus strategic influence," Loh said.

"On some issues if you know who to go to, which group to go to, if you manage to convince them, the government is going to listen to them a lot more than anyone else," she said.

Tentatively named The Civic Exchange, Loh will bring experts and volunteers on board her non-profit organisation to study issues such as the environment, equal opportunities, market competition and ways to reform government institutions.

Loh's decision to quit stems from frustration over constant friction between the legislature and the powerful executive branch headed by Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa.

At present, only one-third of the 60 legislative seats are directly elected. The "executive branch" refers to unelected top government officials and members of Tung's appointed inner cabinet who are responsible for policy making.

"The executive authorities do see the legislature as a huge inconvenience, it's something that they tolerate," said Loh, who is the first pro-democracy campaigner to withdraw from the body. …

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