09/07/2016, 14.09
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Hong Kong elections: Chinese influence increasing as pro-democracy side divides

by John Mok Chit Wai*

Legislative Council elections saw the rise of new, brash student-based political groups. As Beijing warns against “social disaster” caused by secession, new lawmakers backtrack. Pro-democracy camp must find a new way to deal with the mainland. A public administration expert comments.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The election result in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) "is better than expected”, but despite the good show by the opposition, the latter is too divided, and youth participation is still low, says John Mok Wai Chit, a teaching assistant in the Government and Public Administration Department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in comments sent to AsiaNews.

The success of new localist and pro-independence political groups are the main novelty. Emerging out of the student movement, they want nothing to do with mainland China. Nathan Law, one of the newest and youngest LegCo members, got 50,000 votes riding on a pro-independence platform.

Beijing has warned civil society in the former British colony against the spectre of "social disaster" in the event of secession. The newly-elected lawmakers have responded by stressing that they want greater self-determination, not independence.

Traditional pan-democrats were disappointed, losing to the new, brash student-based groups.  Still, historic figures in Hong Kong’s civil movement like Lee Cheuk-yan and Alan Leong were re-elected. John Mok Wai Chit’s comment follows.

The result is better than expected, for the opposition camp succeeded in securing more than one-third of the seats, as well as more than half of the seats returned by geographical constituencies. This means that they can veto important bills and motions. 

On the other hand, the opposition camp remains factious. Before, it was the pan-democrats versus the pro-establishment camp. But in this election, the localists won three seats, while three candidates proposing democratic self-determination also got elected. All of them are new faces.

Nathan Law, the youngest candidate ever elected in the history of Hong Kong, got more than 50000 votes on Hong Kong Island, while Eddie Chu got more than 80000 in the New Territories West. The voices demanding self-determination or even independence are surely galvanized. One can also expect that parliamentary resistance will become more sophisticated, and even more radical. 

Some traditional pan-democratic parties suffered significant losses. Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood lost its only seat in the LegCo, while Labour Party's seats reduced from four to one. Civic Party secured six seats, but its total number of votes obtained, compared with the four years ago, dropped by 50000. The "traditional" pan-democratic camp needs to re-consider its approach in dealing with Beijing. 

The pro-establishment camp continues to retain a majority in the LegCo. Yet, its composition has changed. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong remains the largest party in the LegCo, but the not-quite-loyal Liberal Party lost all its geographical seats. Those widely believed to have received "blessings" from the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government, such as Eunice Yung of New People's Party and Junius Ho, came out victorious. One can see that the Liaison Office is becoming more open in manipulating Hong Kong's elections. 

The total number of voters taking part increased, but most of them are the old instead of the young. This may show that the electoral machinery taking orders from the Liaison Office, or even Beijing, is determined in countering the possible growing political participation of the youth."

*Teaching Assistant, The Government and Public Administration Department, The CUHK

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