18 November 2019
Three in 10 Hong Kong voters are between 18 and 40 but people over 40 still dominate the electorate. Photo: VOA News
Three in 10 Hong Kong voters are between 18 and 40 but people over 40 still dominate the electorate. Photo: VOA News

Next step for student leaders: District elections?

If nothing else, the student protest movement has raised political awareness among Hong Kong’s young people and made its leaders a force to reckon with.

Next year, the rising politicians could take the next step by running in the district elections for dozens of seats that went uncontested in 2011.

An initiative has been launched by netizens on, a pro-democracy website, to help persuade them to do just that.

Any candidate from the student movement could have a hard time against an incumbent but that is beside the point, according to the netizens.

The idea is to use the election as a proxy referendum on the pro-democracy movement.

If the students take up the challenge and win, they could help tilt the balance in the Legislative Council.

Or they could at least steer the political debate in the direction of their movement. 

The young candidates could target vulnerable pan-democrats such as those from the Democratic Party and Civic Party, whose softly, softly approach to the campaign for genuine universal suffrage might have alienated some voters.

By working with the more liberal wing of the pro-democracy camp such as People’s Power and the League of Social Democrats, these young candidates could fill an important role with their fresh ideas and youthful vigor.

The long-term goal of the netizen campaign is to pave the way for young people to run for the Legislative Council.

Sure, the young student leaders have been called unpredictable, long on talk and short on action.

But they also showed maturity in their conduct during short-lived talks with a government panel last month.

And they have proven their ability to mobilize supporters and the political instincts to allow the largely leaderless movement to grow from the middle.

Their tech savvy has been key to maintaining order in the ranks and keeping one another from harm.

Also, student groups are encouraging young voters to register as soon as they can.

If they succeed in hauling teenagers to the political process, they could dramatically change the voter demographic. Think of three million new voters.

Already, three in 10 voters are between 18 and 40, according to official data, but people over 40 still dominate the electorate.

A run for a district council seat would be a good start, not only as a springboard for higher office but also as an opportunity to bring about change in the election process.  

A political campaign would be the perfect platform for promoting the core issues of the ongoing student movement.

Still, supporters of the netizen campaign are careful not to inflate expectations.

They’re aware of a public relations campaign by the government using the street occupation by the protesters as a weapon to influence public opinion.

The longer the occupation lasts, the more likely an impatient Hong Kong public could think less of the young leaders and their supporters. users could finally convince them to take the protest to the next stage by bringing it to a sensible end.

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EJ Insight writer