23 July 2019
Yau Wai-ching, 25, from the independence-leaning  Youngspiration, pulled off the biggest upset in the election by defeating seasoned incumbent Wong Yuk-man. Photo: HKEJ
Yau Wai-ching, 25, from the independence-leaning Youngspiration, pulled off the biggest upset in the election by defeating seasoned incumbent Wong Yuk-man. Photo: HKEJ

Why Beijing should find the Legco election results alarming

Spin doctors and campaign managers from the pro-establishment camp are likely to say that they didn’t do too bad in Sunday’s Legislative Council election.

They could point out that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions were able to keep roughly the same number of seats as in the previous election.

In fact, they could say, the pan-democrats failed to take advantage of the high voter turnout, and as a result they only gained a couple of extra seats.

From their point of view, the election was basically a draw between the two camps.

They could try as hard as they could to escape blame, but the way I look at it, the results of the Legco election are alarming for both Beijing and the Leung Chun-ying administration.

Things might just take a turn for the worse. Here’s why:

1. Youngspiration (青年新政), a new, independence-leaning political organization founded by a bunch of “paratroopers”, or young social activists from the Occupy Movement, took two seats.

Among their winners, the 25-year-old former office clerk Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎)pulled off the biggest upset in the election by defeating seasoned incumbent Wong Yuk-man, dubbed the “godfather of filibuster’, by a razor-thin margin.

Youngspiration’s successful debut indicates that young and radical politicians are becoming increasingly popular among the public, particularly the younger generation.

2. Three candidates advocating “political self-determination” also made it to Legco.

Among them, Nathan Law (羅冠聰), representing Demosistō, another paratrooper organization, was one of the key student leaders who led the raid on the government headquarters on the night of September 28, 2014, which eventually triggered the Occupy Movement.

He was convicted of inciting unlawful assembly and sentenced to community service by the court last month.

However, he still won a seat in the Hong Kong Island constituency by a huge margin, suggesting that many voters are sympathetic towards the organization’s cause.

3. Even though the more moderate Democratic Party and Civic Party are able to maintain their presence in the legislature, it is inevitable that both parties will be increasingly drawn to the localist theme and likely to resort to more radical tactics to push for what they want in the legislature.

This is so because many of their incumbents have been replaced by younger and more radical members in this election.

Also, it appears that these traditional pan-democratic parties will become more reluctant to make compromises over political reforms for fear that they might risk losing the support of young voters.

4. Last but not least, many young candidates who had pledged to continue with filibusters in Legco to block unjust government bills still won by significant margins.

This indicates that filibusters are perhaps not as unpopular among the public as the pro-establishment camp has always claimed.

It seems Beijing and the SAR government have a lot to reflect on given the “unpleasant” outcome of this Legco election.

Shortly after all the election results had been announced, the Chief Executive issued a statement calling on all incoming lawmakers “to join forces with the administration to create a better future for our city”.

I believe if CY Leung is sincere in his appeal for cooperation, the first couple of things he has to do is to ditch his confrontational style of governance and reverse some of his highly unpopular policies.

By doing so he could improve his relations with the pro-democracy camp and reopen bilateral talks.

Only by taking the initiative and mending fences with the pro-democracy camp can our Chief Executive truly pave the way for cooperation in good faith between his administration and the next Legco.

I personally do not have any insider information, but based on my observation I believe Beijing is also in favor of reconciliation.

Even though Beijing might have ordered Leung to take a tough stance on Hong Kong people after he assumed office in 2012, the softened tone of Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress, during his visit to our city earlier this year suggested that the central government could have adjusted its stance and started adopting a more moderate approach towards Hong Kong.

In fact, Sunday’s Legco election could provide an opportunity for our Beijing leaders to thoroughly review their policies on our city over the past several years, and find out whether CY Leung or even Beijing’s Liaison Office have taken the liberty of deviating from their orders.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 7.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Former Secretary for the Civil Service of the Hong Kong Government

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