Pan-dems aggressively eyeing Legco FC seat of catering industry

December 04, 2019 18:39
The pan-democratic camp is said to be targeting the functional constituency sectors where corporate votes will take a backseat to those from individuals, as it prepares for the 2020 Legco race. Photo: HKEJ

The political storm arising from the anti-extradition bill movement has not only split the Hong Kong society into the pro-democracy “yellow ribbon” and the pro-Beijing “blue ribbon” blocs, it has also caused divisions among some industries, particularly within the local catering sector.

While some “yellow ribbon” restaurants which support the five demands put forward by protesters have seen their business volumes soar in recent months, others which have been labeled as “blue ribbon” restaurants have been boycotted by anti-establishment sympathizers.

Meanwhile, after the pan-democrats swept to a landslide victory in the Nov. 24 District Council Election, political figures are turning their focus now to the 2020 Legislative Council election.

A pan-dem says the Legco functional constituency (FC) elections next year could see fierce contests next year, matching in intensity to that usually seen in the battles for geographical constituencies.

While the pro-democracy camp believes it can hang on to its existing seats of the FC representing sectors such as education, legal and information technology in the 2020 race, it is also said to be setting its sights on some other FC seats which are currently held by the pro-establishment camp.

In particular, the pan-democratic camp is targeting those sectors where corporate votes will take a backseat to those from individuals. And the catering sector is likely to become one of the major battlefields, according to the pan-dem.

The pan-dem source pointed out that over the years voters in the catering sector have remained predominantly large local restaurant chains and their subsidiaries. As a result, a single brand name can often hold several dozens of votes.

Besides, the FC seat representing the catering sector in Legco has remained firmly and continuously in the hands of the Liberal Party since 2000, not least because voter registration rate in the industry has stayed relatively low over the years, helping the predominance of pro-establishment supporters in the sector.

However, as the pan-dem noted, the anti-extradition bill movement has reversed the dynamics and situation in the catering industry, with a number of small “yellow ribbon” restaurants which used to be interested only in their business now becoming increasingly vocal and politically active.

And given the sheer number of these “yellow ribbon” food outlets, they could prove a formidable force that can help the pro-democracy camp topple the status quo and take the FC seat from the Liberals if the license holders of the restaurants all get registered as voters in the upcoming election.

that said, history has proven that it is easier said than done when it comes to defeating the Liberal Party in the contest for the FC seat representing the catering industry.

In 2004 and 2016, the pro-democracy camp fielded its own candidates to run against Tommy Cheung Yu-yan of the Liberal Party, who has been holding the seat since 2000, only to be defeated by a comfortable margin on both occasions.

Moreover, while more and more “yellow ribbon” restaurant owners are standing up and being counted, quite a number of their “blue ribbon” counterparts whose stores have been vandalized by protesters, as well as those who think the six-month long radical protests have taken a heavy toll on their business, may be just as eager to get registered as voters in order to voice their anger.

Given that, a surge in the voter registration rate in the catering industry can go either way for the pan-dems.

All said and done, one can certainly expect that the Legco election 2020 will witness a huge jump in the number of registered voters in the catering sector. 

The chances of the incumbent Cheung getting unseated by the pan-dems will depend, to a large extent, on whether the existing public anger against the pro-establishment camp will keep burning until next fall.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 29

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.