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Medical sector heavyweights go head-to-head for functional constituency place

Former president for the Public Doctors’ Association Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, is facing private psychiatry specialist Dr John Wong Yee-him

Competition is expected to be fierce among candidates vying for functional constituency seats in the upcoming Legislative Council elections [1] on September 4. With 12 candidates in 10 functional constituencies being returned unopposed, 43 candidates will run for seats in 18 trade-based constituencies – four more contested functional constituencies than the 2012 Legco polls. Here, we look at the medical sector.

Two doctors actively involved in a recent battle against a government bill to reform the Medical Council are locked in a two-horse race for the medical sector seat in Legislative Council vacated by Dr Leung Ka-lau.

A young rising star in the medical sector, former president for the Public Doctors’ Association Dr Pierre Chan Pui-yin, is facing private psychiatry specialist Dr John Wong Yee-him.

Two other heavyweights who were eyeing the position, University of Hong Kong microbiologist professor Ho Pak-leung, and Medical Association president Dr Gabriel Choi Kin, decided not to run for the position in the last minute.

Chan, 38, a public gastroenterology specialist, gained fame last October when he led the biggest protest in the medical sector in eight years at public hospitals to fight for an extra 3 per cent rise for some senior doctors.

The battle against the authorities was a short one as the hospital chiefs soon bowed to the pressure and agreed to their demands. He stepped down as the president of the association in January.

An insider believed major supporters of Chan would be the public doctors, especially the younger ones.

Chan has been associated with younger groups of doctors in the sector who, unlike elder doctors who were in general more indifferent towards politics, adopted a more active and pro-democracy stance.

On the day he submitted his application on July 26, Chan said he objected to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying being re-elected, and supported the accounting of the truth of the June 4 crackdown.

He would not rule out adopting filibuster tactics in the Legco again, but stressed such radical moves could be avoided if the government had enhanced its communication with all stakeholders.

The other hopeful, Wong, is more likely to draw votes from private doctors.

Wong, who gained his nomination from two vice presidents of the Medical Association, the city’s largest doctors’ group, said he aimed to assist the association in reforming the medical watchdog once he was elected.

The two are eyeing the seat left vacant by Leung, who has been occupying the position since 2008, before being re-elected again in 2012.

Ho, a former president for the association for public doctors and a highly respected scholar in the university, would have been Chan’s major rival if he decided to challenge him. But Ho announced he was backing off on Friday due to family reasons.

Dr Choi also decided to opt out because of multiple concerns.

“In the end I got cold-feet and decided not to go for it,” said Choi, 67, a well-respected private nephrologist. “Someone reminded me that entering the Legco might be a conflict of interest for my role as the president of the Medical Association.

“Also, I am a super-patient myself with all kinds of diseases and ailments one could ever imagine for an elderly [person]. I do not think I can shoulder the workload in the Legco without the likelihood of dying.”

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