Ronny Tong Ka-wah
|Member of the Legislative Council|
1 October 2004 – 30 September 2015
|Preceded by||New seat|
|Constituency||New Territories East|
28 August 1950 |
|Civic Party (2006–15)|
|Spouse(s)||Daisy Tong Yeung Wai-lan|
|Alma mater||Queen's College
University of Hong Kong (LL.B.)
St Edmund Hall, Oxford (B.C.L.)
Ronny Tong Ka-wah, SC (Chinese: 湯家驊; born 28 August 1950 in Hong Kong) is a Hong Kong Senior Counsel and politician. He co-founded the Civic Party and was a Legislative Councillor, representing the New Territories East constituency until he quit the party and resigned from the legislature on 22 June 2015, following the historic vote on Hong Kong electoral reform a few days earlier.
Education and legal career
Tong was born in Hong Kong in 1950. He attended the Queen's College, Hong Kong and studied law at the University of Hong Kong (LLB) and St Edmund Hall, Oxford (BCL). He was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple and received top marks in the Bar Exams. He became Queen's Counsel in 1990 was the chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association from 1999 to 2001.
Eight days after his election as Bar chairman on 21 January 1999, the Court of Final Appeal ruled that mainland Chinese children born before their parents became Hong Kong permanent residents were entitled to right of abode in the city. In June 1999, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) made an interpretation of the Basic Law that effectively overruled the city’s top court in the case. Tong opposed the NPCSC's interpretation, warning that a “Damocles sword” was hanging over the head of the Court of Final Appeal as a result of the government’s refusal to rule out requesting Beijing to interpret the law in future cases. He said the failure to make a public promise not to seek further interpretations of the Basic Law from Beijing had damaged public confidence in the rule of law. “Confidence in our legal system and the independence of our judiciary are bound to suffer,” he said in his annual report to barristers.
Tong also targeted then Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie’s handling of the Sally Aw Sian case, in which the publishing tycoon was not prosecuted for a fraud plot involving her company although she was named as a conspirator in the charges.
Early political career
In 2002, he co-founded the Article 23 Concern Group with former Bar Association chairmen Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Alan Leong Kah-kit, to oppose the government’s attempt to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which they believed posed a threat to civil liberties and basic freedoms. He entered the spotlight as a legal expert when half a million Hong Kong people took to the streets in 2003 to protest against the proposed Article 23 anti-subversion bill that was later shelved. After the 1 July protest, the group transformed into the Article 45 Concern Group to call for universal suffrage in 2007 and 2008, as required under Article 45 of the Basic Law .
In the 2004 Legislative Council election, he and fellow barristers from the group Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Alan Leong Kah-kit ran for the geographical constituency direct elections. Tong combined with the other pro-democrats with a joint list in the New Territories East, where he was placed behind the Democratic Party's Andrew Cheng Kar-foo and The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing. The list received more than 160,000 votes which Cheng, Lau and Tong were elected.
In March 2006, he and members of the Article 45 Concern Group co-founded the Civic Party and he became a member of the party's executive committee. In the 2008 and 2012 Legislative Council elections, he was re-elected to represent New Territories East.
In the 2011 District Council election, he ran in the City One hoping for entering the new District Council (Second) constituency race created under the 2012 constitutional reform package but was defeated by pro-Beijing independent Wong Ka-wing.
2010 electoral reform
As a moderate pan-democrat, Tong opposed to the party's decision in January 2010 to join the "Five Constituencies Referendum", to resign over the five geographical constituencies and run for the vacancy in order to trigger a de facto referendum over the 2012 constitutional reform package, which action was heavily criticised by Beijing. Tong intended to vote for the modified reform package, but was required to vote with the rest of Civic Party to oppose it.
2015 electoral reform
During the debate over the electoral reform over the 2017 Chief Executive election, Tong publicly criticised as unreasonable the pan-democrats’ support of party or public nomination for chief executive candidates. He put forward a more moderate proposal in October 2013. The proposal suggested increasing the membership of the nominating committee from the 1,200 member Election Committee to 1,514 and maintain the nomination threshold of 150 votes. Tong recommended the instant runoff voting system, which is used in Ireland, Australia, Sri Lanka; in mayoral elections in London, San Francisco; and in elections for some state governors in the United States, in order to elect a CE who could be accepted by all sectors. Tong also recommended cancelling existing law which disallows the Chief Executive belonging to a political party membership.
On 31 August 2014, when Beijing announced its decision constraining Hong Kong's political reform, which would spark the 2014 Hong Kong protests, Tong was immediately critical, stating that he would vote against it, casting severe doubt on the government's ability to win the two-thirds majority a reform package needed in the Legislative Council. He cried as he reacted on a live Cable TV programme. "It is the darkest day in the road for democracy," he said. "I am disheartened … I don't see a future for moderates in Hong Kong politics." A moderate reform plan he drew up - under which the public would not be allowed to nominate chief executive candidates - received a cool response from his allies. The barrister said he would think carefully about the next step in his political career after a decision from Beijing that was "more undemocratic than I could imagine". "I thought there would be [some] chance for future dialogue," he said, referring to when pan-democrats were invited for talks with Beijing officials the previous month. "But now, I don't see any chance." He eventually voted against the unmodified proposal with other pan-democrat legislators. On 8 June 2015, before the vote, he set up a think tank Path of Democracy, composed of moderate democrats.
Resignation from party and Legco
On 22 June 2015, a few days after the legislative vote, Tong announced that he would quit the Civic party that he co-founded, adding that he noted the line the Civic Party had taken since the end of 2009 had deviated from its founding values. He would also resign from the Legislative Council as he said it was inappropriate for him to retain his seat in the legislature because he stood for election as a Civic Party member.
- Legco website
- Ng, Kang-chung; Cheung, Gary (22 June 2015). "The outlier: Hong Kong lawmaker Ronny Tong clashed with Civic Party on political reform". South China Morning Post.
- "LegCo to debate a motion on constitutional reform". Government of Hong Kong. 7 Jun 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
- 政改出路 落實真普選 湯家驊倡採用排序複選制. Ronny Tong's Facebook (in Chinese). 15 October 2013.
- "Moderates on both sides of political divide gripped by pessimism". South China Morning Post. 31 August 2014. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- Cheung, Gary; Lam, Jeffie; Ng, Kang-chung (2015-06-22). "Tearful Ronny Tong quits as legislator hours after resigning from Civic Party amid rift in Hong Kong's pan-democratic camp". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2015-06-22.
|Legislative Council of Hong Kong|
|New seat||Member of Legislative Council
Representative for New Territories East
|Chairman of Hong Kong Bar Association
|Order of precedence|
Member of the Legislative Council
|Hong Kong order of precedence
Member of the Legislative Council
Member of the Legislative Council