22 March 2019
Rebecca Chan has been making a lot of public appearances recently in her capacity as a "health ambassador" of the Kowloon Federation of Associations. Photo: HKEJ
Rebecca Chan has been making a lot of public appearances recently in her capacity as a "health ambassador" of the Kowloon Federation of Associations. Photo: HKEJ

Pro-Beijing camp campaign tactics for Rebecca Chan may backfire

As the pro-establishment camp and Beijing’s liaison office have failed to convince former Secretary for Food and Health Dr. Ko Wing-man to run in the upcoming Legislative Council by-election, it appears they have started focusing on their “Plan B” candidate – Ko’s former political assistant Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan.

It is said that the liaison office has been on the lookout for new faces in the pro-establishment camp to run in local elections, hoping that such political rookies can help the bloc to appeal to a wider demographic, particularly centrist and moderate voters.

And even if these new faces lose in the November by-election, the political experience they will gain in the campaign will still prove very useful when they run for other Legco seats in the future.

As a former TV journalist at a relatively young age, Chan is apparently the kind of “poster girl” that the liaison office is eagerly after, hence the green light for her to run in the Nov. 25 by-election after Ko insisted on not running.

But as it turns out, the pro-establishment camp appears to be trying to duplicate the success of Vincent Cheng Wing-shun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong back in March by campaigning for Chan in the same way it did for Cheng, and at full throttle.

However, there is a concern that such tactics might backfire this time.

For example, the fact that Chan has been recently making a lot of public appearances in her capacity as a “health ambassador” of the pro-Beijing Kowloon Federation of Associations would only further highlight her pro-establishment background and possibly undermine her centrist image.

That said, some are worried that the current campaign tactics employed by the pro-Beijing camp would work against the liaison office’s plan to pitch Chan to centrist and moderate voters.

Besides, replicating Cheng’s formula of success on Chan is easier said than done.

Cheng had been serving as a district councilor in Sham Shui Po since 2007 before he was voted into Legco in March this year.

As some in the pro-establishment camp have pointed out, over the past decade, Cheng has established strong bonds with his constituents in Sham Shui Po and built an impressive support base in the community.

Yet, despite his own charisma, his strong support base in Sham Shui Po, as well as the full backing of the pro-establishment camp, Cheng only managed to defeat his pan-dem rival Edward Yiu Chung-yim by a razor-thin margin of about 2,000 votes.

By comparison, Chan has only worked as a political assistant to Ko during his term as food and health minister, and has very little experience in political elections and community service, which calls into question her true capacity for rallying pro-establishment voters in Kowloon West.

As such, there is a huge question mark on whether Chan can pull off a more stunning victory than Cheng’s in the upcoming race.

Last but not least, having learned the bitter lesson of Yiu’s defeat, the pan-democrats will definitely be a lot more careful and organized this time in terms of campaign strategy in order not to repeat the same deadly mistakes, thereby further reducing Chan’s odds of winning.

Given that, perhaps what the pro-Beijing camp needs to do right now is to adjust its campaign tactics and substantially downplay, or dilute, Chan’s pro-establishment background in order to make her more presentable to centrist voters during her election campaign.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 23

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.

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