18 July 2019
Adrian Chow (middle) lost to Ma Fung-kwok (third from left) in the recent Legco elections by 580 votes. Photo: HKEJ
Adrian Chow (middle) lost to Ma Fung-kwok (third from left) in the recent Legco elections by 580 votes. Photo: HKEJ

Why it’s hard to upset the status quo in functional constituency

I failed to unseat the incumbent, pro-establishment Ma Fung-kwok, in the sports, performing arts, culture and publication constituency.

In fact, Ma’s reelection to the Legislative Council was a foregone conclusion. He had the blessing of Beijing and the voter mix in the constituency gave Ma an unfair advantage over his opponents.

There are 2,772 eligible voters in the constituency, according to the Electoral Affairs Commission.

However, the majority of these voters are actually companies, sports and cultural associations rather than individuals, which makes it very easy for Beijing to manipulate the results.

Take the sports sector for example.

All the eligible voters in this sector are either heads of leading local sports associations or those in charge of their affiliates.

Most of the leading sports associations rely heavily on government funding and are often at the mercy of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department when it comes to booking training facilities.

As a result, these associations would cast their vote for whoever is favored by the government.

In the case of this election, Ma Fung-kwok was the favored candidate.

It is estimated that associations contributed at least 500 votes to Ma.

Things are even worse in the cultural sector.

Many of influential cultural associations have mainland backgrounds.

For example, it is believed that the powerful Association of Chinese Culture of Hong Kong and its affiliates control almost 200 votes.

Along with other pro-Beijing cultural organizations, Ma could have secured roughly 800 votes in this sector alone.

Then there are 600 votes from the publishing sector and performing arts sector, which are mostly closely associated with Beijing or the pro-establishment camp.

Within the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, the pro-Beijing camp controls at least 1,900 votes out of the total 2,772 votes, making it almost impossible for anyone to unseat Ma.

As we can see, there is no hope of changing the status quo in the constituency unless it undergoes drastic reform and replaces company vote with individual vote.

Unfortunately, without Beijing’s green light, I see absolutely no prospect of such reform in the foreseeable future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sep 12

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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