With the Legislative Council election just five days away, most of the three million-plus eligible voters in Hong Kong would have made up their minds as to who they will back among the various candidates.
But for those who are still struggling to arrive at a decision, calls are growing that they should consider picking some new faces as their representatives in the legislature for the next four years.
As the pro-democracy camp could lose some seats due to stiff competition and vote fragmentation, observers feel it will be good if we can elect some young candidates from non-traditional parties.
The Sept. 4 election has many contenders below the age of 30 in the fray, even after authorities barred some activists from independence-leaning groups from the contest.
This provides an opportunity for Hong Kong people to think beyond the box of traditional democrats and Beijing loyalists and infuse some new blood into the Legco.
In recent days, several influential opinion-makers have voiced the need for a younger generation of lawmakers who will defend Hong Kong’s interests and not be afraid to take on Beijing.
Given the society’s wish for “change”, the political newcomers can make some breakthroughs in the Sunday election if they play their cards right.
Former civil servant Joseph Wong is among the opinion leaders who have made their preferences clear for the Legco election.
Wong, who is now a current affairs commentator after retiring from government service, said he supports Nathan Law of Demosisto, Lau Siu-lai of Democracy Groundwork, Ray Chan of People Power, and Chu Hoi-dick of Land Justice League in four geographical constituency seats.
Apart from these four candidates, Wong is also supporting Roy Kwong Chun-yu of Democratic Party in the “super” seat of a district council functional constituency.
Wong said he believes the candidates he supports are truly working for a better Hong Kong.
A Facebook post written by Wong outlining his support for the candidates in four geographical constituencies has been viewed by more than 250,000 people and generated more than a thousand “Likes”.
However, his support of Kwong failed to generate the same kind of enthusiasm. This suggests that support for the Democratic Party among the younger generation is not that good compared with that of other candidates with localism background.
Outspoken columnist Joseph Lian, meanwhile, attended events of Youngspiration and Demosisto to show his support to their candidates.
Speaking at the events Sunday, Lian noted that young people are participating more in the election as they seek to lift the spirits of Hong Kong people after failure of the Occupy campaign in late 2014.
The younger generation brings hope to Hong Kong people who want the city to preserve its freedoms and move ahead on the road to democracy.
Former lawmaker Margaret Ng is another prominent figure who has urged voters to support freshmen who have clear mindset and are prepared for a long-term war against the establishment.
As for candidates who are seeking a second term, voters should assess their performance in the past four years to determine if they should remain in the legislature or not, Ng said.
The rise of localist sentiment in Hong Kong has come in the wake of the Occupy movement. The 79-day campaign in 2014 saw more than a million people taking part, creating a solid foundation for young people to take up political activism.
Despite not achieving its goals, the Occupy campaign succeeded in highlighting the problems faced by Hong Kong, forcing the younger generation to think about the city’s future.
Of course, not all Hong Kong people support the so-called Hong Kong independence campaign or moving away from China. But the consensus is that the city should maintain its uniqueness and autonomy, rather than just blindly follow the policy direction set by Beijing.
In the past four years, Hong Kong lawmakers, most of whom are Beijing loyalists, approved funding for several “white elephant” projects just because the ventures were seen in China’s interests.
A cross-border high-speed rail link, a new airport runway and a development plan for northeastern New Territories were among projects that were approved even though the opposition camp and most Hong Kong citizens doubted the effectiveness and investment return of the ventures.
Given the state of affairs in Hong Kong, the legislature can certainly do with more opposition voices from new political groups.
However, what is distressing is that the opposition camp has not been very united in the fight against pro-Beijing elements.
While some candidates in the opposition camp are working together during the campaign, others seem to be working at cross-purposes.
Radical lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, for instance, has had problems with localist groups Youngspiration and Hong Kong Indigenous over some issues.
A Legco by-election in February saw Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous secure more than 60,000 votes, reflecting the growing support for localist groups.
But immediately after the election, Wong immediately announced his Legco campaign and excluded Leung in his scheme of things.
Wong’s moves have served to dilute the votes of the localist groups, affecting the prospects of some newbie candidates in the September polls.
As Beijing is expected to push forward various policies after the Legco election, it is essential that we have a solid opposition bloc in the new legislature.
While the traditional democrats may not do well, a handful of seats to some fresh young faces can make a difference in terms of new ideas for the city’s future.
With most of the old-line politicians appearing to have lost their ability to put up a strong fight and defend Hong Kong’s interests, it’s time we nurture a new crop of leaders.
The Legco election can be a good starting point.
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