HK vote shows desire for stability

By Chen Heying Source:Global Times Published: 2015-11-24 0:23:01

District election seen as new political test since Occupy Central

Political parties supportive of the central government have retained a majority in Hong Kong's district council elections in a poll seen as the first real test of public opinion since widespread protests last year disrupted political reform in the region.

The election results could hint at possible changes in next year's Legislative Council (LegCo) election to a certain degree, and the high proportion of young first-time voters was a significant trend, said analysts.

The results of Sunday's polls, in which 935 candidates were vying for 431 district council seats, showed on Monday that groups who oppose radical localism movements retained a majority of seats in all 18 district councils, media reported.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the main pro-central government party, won 119 seats, while the Democratic Party, on a different line, dropped four seats from 47 to 43.

Twenty-nine members of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions were elected.

And the pro-central government New People's Party gained 26 seats out of the 42 members running for office, receiving over 75,000 votes. The Chairperson Regina Ip said the result was satisfying although some of their seasoned councilors lost.

District councilors have little actual power and serve in advisory roles to push for policy changes.

However, the district elections are widely believed to gauge whether support for the 2014 Occupy protests could translate into votes after a reform plan to elect the 2017 Hong Kong chief executive through universal suffrage was voted down by local legislators.

Pan-democratic candidates who spread localism and even advocate the "independence of Hong Kong" failed to gain any seat in the elections, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

"No support for the radical candidates indicates that Hong Kongers have remained rational in general after the 2014 demonstrations," Zhang Dinghuai, a professor at the Contemporary Chinese Politics Research Institute of Shenzhen University, told the Global Times.

Local residents accept that some people will have complaints about central government policies, but they will not tolerate those who create a sensation or resort to violence, Zhang said.

The Occupy protests began on September 28, 2014, when thousands of protesters occupied the roads of Hong Kong's main financial districts, paralyzing the city. The demonstrations lasted for 79 days and petered out following a public backlash.

"The latest polls reflect that those sit-ins did not rock Hong Kong's social foundations," Zhang said.

Most voters are aware that there is no point carrying out Occupy protests and they expect a stable society, Michael Tien Puk-sun, a Hong Kong lawmaker who also took a seat at the district-level elections, told the Global Times.

Tian Feilong, a legal expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that "the pro-establishment group is likely to gain more seats in the same LegCo sector next year, if it continues to address grass-roots concerns, and make more efforts to supervise the local government and boost the economy."

Youth speaks louder

The elections saw a record high turnout rate - 47.01 percent, or over 1.46 million voters, the China News Service reported on Monday.

According to Hong Kong-based news site, the turnout in four previous elections only reached 35.82 percent in 1999, 44.1 percent in 2003, 38.83 percent in 2007 and 41.4 percent in 2011.

Experts agreed that the active participation of young people was a marked trend in these elections.

Hong Kong witnessed 43,289 young people aged between 18 and 20 register as voters, accounting for 56 percent of all the newly registered, the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao paper reported on Monday.

Thirty-three DAB candidates aged under 35 years old won seats, DAB Chairwoman Starry Lee said at a press conference on Monday. Some DAB candidates were even born in the 1990s, according to Ta Kung Pao.

The so-called "Umbrella Soldiers," named after the 2014 demonstrations in which activists used umbrellas to guard against tear gas and pepper spray, gained eight seats in the elections, the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily reported on Monday.

Two pan-democratic candidates - Democratic Party lawmaker and heavyweight Albert Ho and Frederick Fung - lost their seats, according to Reuters. On the other side, DAB candidate Chung Shu-kun was unseated in a surprise move after 21 years.

Tien told the Global Times that the pro-establishment group has to discover and cultivate more talented young people, to meet the expectations of the electorate who are inclined to give them more opportunities.

Zhang agreed, adding that both pro-establishment and pan-democratic groups also need to attach more importance to young voters' viewpoints on politics, and promote the groups' political agenda while corresponding to the mind-set and character of young people.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Posted in: HK/Macao/Taiwan

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