Hong Kong’s sixth District Council election is scheduled for Nov. 24. Compared to the last DC race, the numbers of seats up for election this time are up by 21, taking the total to 452.
In all these 452 constituencies, there are at least two contenders for each seat, with some even having four or five candidates. In other words, no incumbent is going to return uncontested in this intensely competitive election.
The surge in the number of candidates this year compared to the last DC race indicates that quite a lot of people are hoping for a break in the current political deadlock through this election.
As of late October, over 3,000 people have been arrested amid the anti-government protests, with authorities now pressing criminal charges against nearly 500 of them.
Worse still, the average daily number of apprehended protesters was up from about 15 between June 9 and Sept. 16 to 35 between Sept.17 and Oct. 31, suggesting that the government might be attempting to deter protesters by means of massive arrests.
Moreover, the continued escalation of police brutality has provoked huge resentment among the public. According to a recent poll, 88 percent of Hongkongers are in favor of establishing an independent commission of inquiry, while 69 percent support the idea of drastically reorganizing the police force.
Unfortunately, all these demands have fallen on the government’s deaf ears.
Given the current stalemate, I believe voters across the 452 District Council constituencies must seize the opportunity and say “no” to the government’s indifference and police brutality through the ballot box.
Casting votes in an election will not only help citizens fulfill their civic duty, it is a means to stand up to tyranny.
As far as our political system is concerned, District Councilors currently account for nearly 10 percent (i.e. 117) of the 1200-member-strong chief executive election committee.
Traditionally, the DC subsector in the Election Committee has been a pro-Beijing stronghold over the years.
As such, if the pro-democracy camp is now able to conquer either the Hong Kong/Kowloon (57 seats) or the New Territories (60 seats) subsectors, or both, it will definitely create huge pressure on the SAR government.
Currently, 70 percent of the DC seats are in the hands of the pro-establishment camp, not least because the turnout of pro-democracy voters in DC elections has remained relatively low over the years.
Let’s take the last two DC and Legco elections as examples. The voter turnouts of the Legco races in 2012 and 2016 were on average 10 percent higher than those of the two DC elections in 2011 and 2015.
One reason why pro-democracy voters aren’t keen on voting in the DC elections is that there is a public impression among them that members of the district councils are predominantly focused on small local issues.
In recent days, there has been talk in the media that the government has studied the feasibility of either postponing or cancelling the upcoming DC election.
While the news has immediately provoked a public backlash, it has also served as a timely reminder for the citizens that they should never take the right to vote for granted even though it is protected under the Basic Law.
The fact that members of the pro-establishment camp have recently been decrying election unfairness could indeed be an attempt to pave the path for the government to delay or call off the DC race.
Given that, we must stay vigilant against any possible plot to disrupt the election and avoid playing into the hands of the government and the pro-Beijing camp.
As the space for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong has contracted in recent years, we must take the DC election seriously and enhance a culture of political participation among the citizens so as to empower the community.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 8
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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