In a rare and unexpected move, a pro-Beijing newspaper in Hong Kong praised Edward Leung Tin-kei, a member of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, as a highly talented person, despite having lost the Legislative Council by-election for the New Territories East geographical constituency on Sunday.
A commentary published in Ta Kung Pao on Wednesday described Leung as quick-thinking and responsive, and said many consider the losing candidate a promising talent.
The article is believed to have been written by the newspaper’s deputy editor-in-chief Yip Chung-man, who uses the pen name Kwan Chiu.
Leung, a student of the University of Hong Kong, was among those arrested for taking part in the Mong Kok clashes on the night of Feb. 8.
He came in third in the Legco by-election, securing 66,524 votes.
Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu won the race with 160,880 votes.
The commentary noted that most of Leung’s supporters were young people, including first-time voters.
It said it is worthwhile to analyze if the young people voted for Leung because they embrace his localist political view or because they are dissatisfied with society.
While praising Leung, the article also pointed out that the low percentage of votes obtained by Leung suggests that radicalism and opposition to the government have no tomorrow in Hong Kong.
Ivan Choy, a political commentator and senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the results of the by-election point to a fragmentation in the pan-democratic camp.
As such, Choy said, the Ta Kung Pao article should be seen as a move by pro-Beijing forces not to ease political tension in society but to gloat over the divisions in the pro-democracy camp.
Legco president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing also praised Leung for his outstanding perfomance in the election campaign.
He said people who voted for Leung did so for various reasons, but they do not necessarily support violent protests.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies, said Leung’s rising popularity showed that the Hong Kong government needs to soften its stance and reduce political tension in the city, especially when dealing with young people and the middle class.
Some commentators said Tsang and Lau, who are pro-Beijing icons, are not really praising Leung but simply denying that the Mong Kok clashes have gained support from many voters.
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