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Miri's tycoon Hii King Chiong - politician or philanthropist?

S'WAK POLLS BN direct candidate for Pujut Hii King Chiong is a newcomer to politics and the greenhorn among the ruling coalition’s nominees fighting for Miri's three urban seats.

A man of few words who is a bit shy to speak with the media, the businessman however is a well-known figure in Miri.

And if you don't know him, the visage of his thick sideburns is everywhere these days in this oil town, even on the sides of taxis.

"He's a timber tycoon; he has a hotel here," a taxi driver who wished to be known only as Mr Lim tells Malaysiakini.

A trader on the outskirts of Miri town meanwhile said Hii has been the go to guy for hawkers here for many years.

"I've known him for a long time; we always tell him our problems," the trader who introduced himself as Khoo said.

Hii's campaign manifesto contains many things, such as fighting for Sarawak's autonomy and restoring BN's political grip on Miri.

But it is the image of a philanthropic man of the people, not a politician, that Hii appears to be cultivating for himself as he campaigns to retake Pujut from the opposition.

"When the people face hardship, King Chiong sakit hati (gets upset), King Chiong wants to help," Hii said, referring to himself in the third person at a recent event.

Even Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi played to this tune when vouching for him, saying the BN hopeful would use his own wealth to take care of all his potential constituents, regardless of race and religion.

Less speeches, more meet and greets

This approach seems to suit Hii, who is not the most eloquent of speakers, and thus far, has avoided political speeches and addressing issues such as the goods and services tax (GST) and 1MDB.

Instead, his campaign focuses on meet and greets, where his aides jot down the many complaints that come his way.

One woman he met on the campaign trail had even asked for his help to secure public housing.

Hii's access to wealth, however, is not free from controversy, as claimed by his DAP opponent Ting Tiong Choon.

"People have told me that Hii has promised them that if he is successful, he will give them money.

"I don't have proof and I'm not accusing him of anything, but this is what the public tells me. I didn't ask for this information," Ting tells Malaysiakini.

Hii however was unperturbed by this, and simply brushed it off as opposition allegations.

Hii and Ting, both considered front-runners in Pujut's four-men race, have both said that it'll be a tough fight and place their chances at 50-50.

‘Hii must address GST, 1MDB’

Analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi however said the BN tycoon might have an edge over his main contender.

"Being charitable gives him the persona of a leader who can be counted on.

"But he can't keep avoiding GST and 1MDB which urban voters are attuned to, and he needs to address (the two issues) wisely," Awang Azman told Malaysiakini.

He said Ting is viewed as a foreign candidate who spent much of his life overseas, and might not understand local issues.

The Universiti Malaya professor added that the presence of independent candidate, incumbent Fong Pau Teck, who was sacked from DAP, will also hurt support for Ting.

Ting has addressed this concern by saying he returned to Sarawak to fight for the people and a more democratic society.

Despite his reservations, Awang Azman is confident that DAP will go on the offensive in the last days of campaigning to seize back sympathy support from Fong.

Besides Hii, Ting, and Fong, there is also a fourth candidate in Pujut - PAS' Jofrie Jaraiee.

Jofrie is the odd one out in the race for the Chinese-majority seat, but has said he is confident Sarawakians’ blindness to race and religion gives him a fighting chance.

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