16 September 2019
The DAB, led by chairman Tam Yiu-chung, rewards its supporters with free lunches, including snake soup (winter), vegetarian dishes (spring), mooncakes (autumn) and rice dumplings (summer). Photo: openrice,, Xinhua
The DAB, led by chairman Tam Yiu-chung, rewards its supporters with free lunches, including snake soup (winter), vegetarian dishes (spring), mooncakes (autumn) and rice dumplings (summer). Photo: openrice,, Xinhua

The DAB, Beijing and HK’s electoral echo chamber

Ask any Hong Kong person about the city’s core values and they’ll speak of the need to defend virtues like fairness, openness and justice.

But ask people about their support for political parties and 12.8 percent of them will come out in favor of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. While that may not seem like much, the DAB, as it is known, has the highest public support among the city’s political parties, according to a survey by Chinese University’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

The Democratic Party came in with 5.9 percent in the survey, the Civic Party 4.9 percent and People’s Power 2.4 percent. More than half of the respondents said no parties deserved electoral support.

While there is no right or wrong way to vote, the public should question whether the DAB represents the interests of all Hong Kong people. And the answer to that question is absolutely not. 

It certainly doesn’t appear to be reaching out to youth, given comments by DAB lawmaker Ann Chiang. Chiang argued in a public forum earlier this week that discussion about political reform should not involve minors such as student leader Joshua Wong, an advocate of unfettered universal suffrage. So why shouldn’t young people be a part of the political debate? Perhaps some are afraid their interests will be eroded. 

The DAB without doubt speaks for Beijing in Hong Kong, representing Beijing’s interests rather than those of the Hong Kong people. It means that the DAB has no firm stand on controversial issues like the investigation into the delay of the MTR’s high-speed rail link with the mainland. When the DAB finally did take a position on the issue, it sided with the government to oppose a formal investigation, helping the authorities avoid further embarrassment.

The DAB’s blind support for the Hong Kong and Beijing governments has made it the authorities’ yes men. For its part, the DAB has leveraged the backing of Beijing — and tycoons — to become the wealthiest political party in Hong Kong. In just one night at its annual dinner this year, the DAB raised more than HK$60 million. The funding, as well as financial support from its legislative and district councilors, ensures the DAB can reward to its supporters with cheap local tours and free lunches. 

And yet Beijing criticizes media tycoon Jimmy Lai for donating HK$40 million to the pan-democrats.

Under the one country, two systems political framework, Hong Kong people have no way but to accept Beijing’s rule, irrespective of the way they will choose the chief executive and Legislative Council. Hong Kong is at a political crossroads and Beijing will soon say how reforms for the 2017 chief executive election will proceed. The outcome will determine how big a say more than 3 million voters will have in the next person to lead the city.

The rules clearly state that the chief executive cannot represent a political party, but a person can resign from a party to run. The real bottom line is that he or she should be a keen supporter of the Communist Party — Beijing has said as much by insisting that the person who fills the position should “love China and love Hong Kong.” Against that backdrop, the DAB is on track to be the talent pool for the city’s future chief executives. Is that worthy of 12.8 percent public support?

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EJ Insight writer