What Edward Leung's by-election performance tells us

March 01, 2016 17:23
Horace Chin, Alvin Cheng, Raymond Wong and Wong Yeung-tat  announce their Legco election plans. Edward Leung (right photo) was conspicuous by his absence at the press conference. Photos: YouTube, Reuters

It's not all bad for the localist camp despite losing Sunday's Legislative Council by-election.

It's not all good either. 

The localists are taking heart from the fact that Edward Leung of Hong Kong Indigenous captured 66,000 votes, the third highest, in a hard-fought contest against established candidates.

Civic Party's Alvin Yeung won the New Territories East seat vacated by former partymate Ronny Tong who resigned in October.

Leung ended up with about 15 percent of the vote, behind second finisher Holden Chow of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Already, Leung's supporters including some mainstays of Civic Passion (熱血公民), Hong Kong Resurgence Order (HKRO 香港復興會) and Proletariat Political Institute (PPI 普羅政治學苑) are extrapolating his performance to the upcoming Legco election.

They believe that under the proportional representation system, those 66,000 votes would be enough to win a Legco seat.

There is a slight problem.

Leung has not signaled his intentions one way or the other, so a run for a Legco seat for him is very much up in the air.

Also, the localist camp appears to be splintering before it has a chance to coalesce around Leung's success.

Some players, though, are riding on it.

They include Kowloon West lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, his close ally Wong Yeung-tat and academic Horace Chin, whose embrace of a Hong Kong city-state is a linchpin of his political ambitions.

All three lent their presence to Leung's campaign and all are planning to run in the Legco election.

On Monday, Civic Passion, HKRO and PPI announced their plans to field five candidates, one in each geographical constituency.

But Leung, the rising star of the localist camp, was nowhere in sight, sparking speculation he has been pushed aside.

If there have been any political maneuverings among localists regarding an election ticket, these don't seem to involve Leung.

Oddly enough, Leung is considered potentially the strongest candidate to win support from outside the localist camp if he joins the race.

His supporters cite his fresh appeal and youthfulness as his biggest assets.

But he may have alienated some voters because of his association with Wong, a divisive figure in a party he founded. 

Whether Leung is up for the race or not, his localist friends -- if you can call them that -- are claiming his by-election performance as a victory for the entire localist camp.

Which explains why they're so keen to project it to the September election, never mind that the 15 percent they're crowing about came from just one constituency.

They reckon that if all five of their candidates won, they would resign and trigger a Hong Kong-wide by-election that could serve as a referendum on outstanding issues.

That is easier said than done.  

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EJ Insight writer