Date
27 May 2018
Pro-establishment candidate Tony Tse (left) and pro-democracy group's Paul Zimmerman are squaring off in the Legco by-election for the architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency. Photos: HKEJ
Pro-establishment candidate Tony Tse (left) and pro-democracy group's Paul Zimmerman are squaring off in the Legco by-election for the architectural, surveying and planning functional constituency. Photos: HKEJ

Why the Tse-Zimmerman contest is making both camps nervous

For the pan-democrats, uncertainties over the Legislative Council by-elections for the geographical constituencies of Kowloon West and the Hong Kong Island have largely cleared after Edward Yiu Chung-yim and Au Nok-hin received confirmations of their candidacies.

However, the situation is different when it comes to the contest for the seat in the functional constituency of the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, with the odds something like 50-50.

In fact many pan-dems are pretty bearish about the winning chances of their candidate — Paul Zimmerman from the Professional Commons — and believe the pro-establishment bloc’s Tony Tse Wai-chuen is very likely to win this time.

The reason, they noted, is that members of the pro-establishment camp have learned the painful lesson of the 2016 Legco election and are fielding only one candidate this time, i.e. Tse.

Thus, Zimmerman can no longer capitalize on the disunity and infighting among pro-establishment candidates this time. Also, it remains to be seen as to how Zimmerman’s revelation of unauthorized building works in his house, over which he apologized to the public, might affect his election prospects.

However, rather interestingly, while most pan-dems strongly believe retaking the Legco seat would be a slam dunk for Tse, those who are close to Tse have suggested otherwise.

It is because, according to them, pro-establishment voters in the sector are deeply divided between supporters of Tse and those of Professor Bernard Vincent Lim Wan-fung.

In the last Legco election, Tse snapped up 2,009 votes, while Lim took 1,235 votes. Thanks to intense infighting in that camp, the pro-democracy bloc’s Yiu eventually won by a narrow margin.

According to some members of the establishment camp, Lim’s diehard supporters aren’t necessarily willing to switch their votes to Tse in the March by-election.

Besides, they also added, the results of the Election Committee election in December 2016 already indicated that young and pro-democracy constituents have become a force to be reckoned with in the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector. 

These young professionals, according to those close to Tse, would almost be pro-democracy in terms of their political stance. But, in the pro-democracy camp, there are different opinions regarding Zimmerman’s likelihood of winning the seat.

Some young professionals in the sector concerned feel that because Zimmerman obtained the most votes in the 2016 Election Committee contest for the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape sector, he stands a good chance to win the upcoming by-election. Others, however, say the two elections are different and thus hardly comparable. The former can elect 30 members, the latter only one.

Moreover, the situation is further compounded by the fact that voter turnout in by-elections is always relatively low. If that remains the case in the election in March, it may put Tse at a huge disadvantage.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 31

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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JC/RC

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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