Why Alvin Yeung faces a tough battle in the Legco by-election

February 19, 2016 15:20
Civic Party candidate Alvin Yeung is urging voters to vote for him to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from winning the Legco seat. Photo: HKEJ

As the by-election for a Legislative Council seat draws nearthe pro-democracy camp finds itself torn between two candidates, one representing the moderate faction and the other the more radical side.

The dire scenario that is being presented by the traditional democrats is that the rivalry within the camp could make it easier for the pro-establishment forces to win the contest, and this would have far-reaching consequences as far as the democratic struggle is concerned.

For one, they said, it could facilitate the pro-Beijing camp's long-standing desire to launch a bill revising the legislature's rules and procedures. 

This would, in turn, substantially reduce the power of the pan-democrats to oppose the government's legislative proposals and funding requests, and deprive them of their favorite method of blocking bills, which is through filibusters.

And so the democrats are now focusing on how to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from grabbing the seat, rather than convincing the public to vote for their candidates.

The New Territories East geographical constituency has always been a democracy bulwark.

But many of the voters in the constituency feel that their years of support for the pan-democrats have not resulted in any real gains in the democratic struggle.

This growing sense of disillusionment is particularly keen among the youngsters who were on the frontlines of the Occupy protests in 2014 as well as the localists campaigns last year. Many of these youngsters are now voting for the first time.

Against this backdrop, Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party is facing a tough fight against other candidates in the election, especially after the recent clashes between the localists and the police in Mong Kok.

The raging debate in the democratic camp is whether to support Yeung, who is seen as representing the traditional democrats, or Edward Leung of the radical localist group, Hong Kong Indigenous.

Leung, who is facing charges for his alleged participation in the Mong Kok clashes, is urging voters to support him to bring changes to the dull political situation in Hong Kong.

On the other hand, Yeung, who is supported by all leading democrats, is urging voters to choose him to prevent the pro-Beijing camp from winning the seat.

Yeung's election pitch has drawn the ire of many voters in the constituency, particularly those identified with the radical camp, who stress that the essence of democracy is to choose the one who best represents their interests rather than to choose one candidate to prevent another from winning.

Roy Tsui, founder of the satirical magazine 100Most, poked fun at Civic Party, which he said is "urging the voters to vote for traditional democrats for macro reasons".

To gain the sympathy of the New Territories East voters, Yeung should first sincerely apologize to them for his former colleague Ronny Tong's resignation, which triggered the by-election.

This is important to assure the voters of his commitment to the democratic fight, that he won't follow in Tong's footsteps and side with the administration camp.

Yeung, in fact, is highly qualified to become a legislator, and his being a barrister should help him win the support of a wide range of voters.

However, his main rival, Holden Chow of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, is also a lawyer, thereby eliminating any advantage that Yeung may have as a result of his professional background.

The Civic Party has also failed to raise the voters' awareness of Yeung's credentials as a candidate. 

In the meantime, Leung's reputation among the young voters has sharply increased as a result of his arrest in connection with the Mong Kok clashes. First-time voters know him and what his election platform is.

Commenting on the rivalry between Leung and Yeung, Audrey Yu, chairwoman of the Civic Party, said voters should pay attention to the qualities of the candidates.

She said Yeung is energetic, well-spoken and has been serving the New Territories East constituency for years, adding that other candidates like Leung and Chow cannot compare with his caliber.

If Yeung is such an outstanding candidate, the democratic camp should proactively promote Yeung as a courageous lawyer who assisted the young activists arrested during the Occupy campaign.

Promoting Yeung as an outspoken lawyer and fighter for justice should help win support from voters in a district dominated by democrats.

But will such a strategy work? Why should the democratic camp bask on its glorious past instead of trying to understand the youth's current sentiment?

Many of today's youngsters believe that the traditional democrats have become too moderate and complacent in the struggle to break the political deadlock.

Many of the young activists who joined the Occupy campaign and other protests feel that the traditional democrats have failed to adopt to the new generation.

That's why many of these youngsters feel more affinity with radical democrats like Leung, who are not afraid to use more forceful means to advance the democratic struggle.

For them, it is quite strange that traditional democrats are playing up the impact of Chow's victory by raising the possibility of changes to Legco's rules and procedures.

The general public don't want to waste their time discussing such difficult and boring issues.

From their point of view, if the democrats really care about retaining the Legco seat, why didn't they just convince their comrade Ronny Tong to stay on until July? Or why did the Civic Party not nominate Audrey Yu herself to keep the seat?

For them, the risk of a pro-Beijing candidate's victory is simply a bogeyman being raised by the traditional democrats to scare them into voting the Civic Party candidate.

If they are so afraid of any possible changes to the Legco rules and procedures, why don't the pan-democratic lawmakers actively block such a bill to safeguard their right to speak in the chamber?

Instead of scaring voters with dire scenarios, traditional democrats should respect the intelligence of the voters to choose the right candidate who can represent their interests.

The only consideration is the candidate's commitment to the voters, and not the interest of political camps.

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EJ Insight writer