Many believe young Hong Kong people should enter politics to express their views about society.
They could stand for election or get involved in the democratic process by other means. In any event, their political influence will gradually emerge.
In the 1990s, the British colonial administration introduced representative democracy in Hong Kong.
In a major step, it lowered the voting age to 18 form 21, allowing more people to vote.
However, the proportion of young people who have registered as voters and taken part in elections remains low, according to a survey by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Center.
Older voters dominate the electorate. In other words, they hold the key to victory.
Their support for pro-establishment candidates has been the linchpin of their electoral success.
That is how the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong won elections.
However, things have changed in recent years and voters aged 18 to 23 have become more active.
Their turnout in recent elections has exceeded that of other age groups but their numbers have been only high enough to benefit radical candidates.
Young voters have yet to prove they can transform the political landscape.
The fact that only 13,000 people, a few of them young, took part in the first major mass protest this year on Feb. 1, suggests the youth are still in “recovery mode” after the 79-day pro-democracy street protests.
Many are still trying to catch up with their studies and have had no time for anything else.
It’s hard to say when these young people will regain their stride but we are beginning to see some signs.
Meanwhile, there is considerable interest in the leaders of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) and Scholarism, who rose to stardom during the protests, even though some think of them as shooting stars.
Let’s not forget that Joshua Wong, convenor of Scholarism, has four years to go before he graduates from university. HKFS secretary general Alex Chow might pursue graduate studies abroad.
If they run for Legco or the district council at some point, their chances are slim at best — Hong Kong society generally does not favor students turned politicians.
Hong Kong voters may support them out of sympathy but they may not entrust them with political power.
Still, there are a lot of ways to encourage these rising politicians. One is donations; another is showing up at rallies.
But this sort of support typically does not last long because it is largely driven by emotion, not by political considerations.
When it comes to elections, it’s difficult to say whether voters will support these young politicians.
After all, they’re considered too young to really understand how politics and governments work and some say they’re no more than a media creation.
But some of these emerging politicians do have promise. Singer Denise Ho has the greatest potential.
Many of her supporters think she has a good chance if she runs for Legco.
Ho offers an alternative to incumbent legislators who have been losing public support because of their disappointing performance.
Hong Kong people are looking to see new blood and fresh faces in their legislature.
Many say Ho stands for the aspirations of the new generation given her role in the democracy movement.
Even though her political views are only evolving, she has shown she is not afraid to go against the tide.
She stands a better chance than other leaders of the movement because she appeals to a wider demographic.
If she puts together a sensible campaign as an independent candidate and launches it while there’s time, she could be a force to reckon with.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 10.
Translation by Alan Lee
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